KANSAS CITY, MO. (AP) - Within days of one another, two unrelated and very expensive scandals have finally wound down at Kansas State and Kansas.
The embarrassing episodes made headlines around the nation. They cost the state’s two biggest universities hard-won prestige, some important friends and millions of dollars.
Officials at both schools say valuable lessons have not only been learned, but taken to heart.
Individually, the biggest losers are five former Kansas staff members who are headed for prison. But other victims include two highly accomplished executives who are settling into retirement with tarnished reputations.
The biggest winner, hands down, was Ron Prince.
Last week, Kansas State agreed to a settlement with its former head football coach, agreeing to pay him $1.65 million. It absolves Prince of any wrongdoing in a dispute over a memorandum of agreement that Kansas State had contended was signed without the knowledge of then-president Jon Wefald.
After Prince was fired at the end of the 2008 season, the school said it discovered the agreement signed by Prince and then-athletic director Robert Krause. Under that pact, Prince was supposedly owed $3.2 million by Kansas State and the Intercollegiate Athletic Council in addition to a severance payment of about $1.3 million.
Under terms of the original agreement, he was not to receive any portion of the money for almost five more years, and the full amount would not have been paid until the end of 2020.
The settlement left many unanswered questions, including why the Wildcats after two years suddenly dropped the fight.
“I don’t want to get into any of those things,” said athletic director John Currie.
The Prince matter was the icing on the cake of an embarrassing audit done by an outside firm in connection with Wefald’s retirement after more than 20 years as Kansas State president. The audit called attention to many questionable accounting procedures and sent Wefald out the door under a cloud of controversy.
Many of Kansas State’s biggest donors angrily said they would write no more checks.
Wefald’s successor, Kirk Schulz, insisted on a policy of near-total transparency. When Currie was introduced at a news conference two years ago, copies of his contract lay on a table in the back of the room.
And it was this transparency, Currie said, that brought the people back.
“The first year of fundraising, we had a $5 million increase that first year in annual gifts,” he said. “It was critical in our beginning to rebuild the trust in our fan base. If we’re going to ask people to invest in our program, they need to know exactly where the dollars they invest will go.”