An internal audit has found extensive mismanagement within the budget-challenged Washington State athletic department while Bill Moss was AD, including the possible inflation of home football attendance figures and the improper distribution of free tickets to football games.
Moos, now the athletic director at Nebraska, said in a Thursday interview with the Journal Star that he had not read the entire audit but had been briefed on the details and strongly defended his tenure at the Pac-12 school.
"I’m proud of what was accomplished at Washington State in my 7½ years there and most proud of how we accomplished it," the Nebraska athletic director said. "My record is impeccable in regards to compliance with rules and regulations."
According to the audit, which was completed in mid-April, "The environment within (WSU) Athletics … did not support a culture of compliance or fiscal responsibility."
The document comes as leaders of that school grapple with a $67 million athletic budget deficit built up over recent years.
The audit was initially intended to examine the distribution of tickets and passes to Washington State football games to ensure regulations were being followed. But it expanded as problems were discovered with contract management, ethics training, attendance data, benefits for athletic department employees and other issues.
The school responded to the audit by saying changes were coming because of the hiring of a new athletic director and other top administrators.
"A new culture and work climate are already being implemented," the university said in its response to the audit.
Moos told the Journal Star that he was familiar with most of the main concerns the audit highlighted and said, "Most everything in there is defensible."
Since arriving at Nebraska, Moos has overseen some reorganization in NU's athletic department. Asked if the results of the WSU audit caused his confidence in his plan and department structure here to change or waiver, Moos said flatly, "No, not one bit."
NU President Hank Bounds was traveling Thursday for a family function and not immediately available for comment.
The bulk of the fieldwork for the audit was conducted between April 13, 2017, and Sept. 11, 2017, according to the audit document. Moos signed a contract to become Nebraska's athletic director on Oct. 13 after interviewing the same week. He acknowledged Thursday that he was aware of the audit as it progressed, but did not consider it significant at the time.
"I tell you, at Washington State there’s always an audit going on of some kind," Moos said. "I was aware that we were having a ticket audit. I didn’t know the specifics of it and it really didn’t matter to me because I was fully confident that everything we were doing was above board.
"I’ve never worried on an audit because there’s nothing to hide."
WSU is about 75 miles from Spokane, the nearest major city, has the smallest football stadium and smallest athletic budget and revenues in the Pac-12 Conference. The school spends about $70 million per year on athletics.
The department has reduced its deficit to $9 million per year from a high of $13 million. The $67 million total deficit was largely caused by spending on renovations to Martin Stadium and a new football operations building, and lower-than-expected television revenues.
"That was all part of a master plan to jump-start that program when I got there and was working with then-President Elson Floyd," Moos told the Journal Star. "In a nutshell, I told him we had to invest in facilities or we were going to get left in the dust and he backed me there, fully knowing that we were going to go into the red for a while, but we had a plan to pull out of it. That was all part of the master plan."
The audit initially focused on complimentary tickets for a 2016 home football game and was subsequently expanded.
Auditors determined that the Cougar Athletics Compliance Office did not receive complete information on who got free tickets, a situation that could result in NCAA violations.
In one case, four premium club seats for the Arizona game were given away to "cultivate donors." But the department was unable to say who received those free tickets, the audit found.
"We put people up there in unused seats to encourage them to purchase seats," Moos told the AP, adding in a later interview, "The thing is that I stand by that if the tickets aren't sold, the seats are’t being utilized, use them for some kind of cultivation so they can be sold someday."
The audit also found sports broadcasting, advertising and marketing partner IMG was given $40,000 more worth of free football tickets than was required by their contract and that the IMG contract was improperly amended, in some cases verbally, by athletics staff.
The audit also found that the department was inflating home football game attendance figures, a practice that is not uncommon. Many programs, including Nebraska football, announce attendance by tickets sold and not by tickets scanned.
The WSU audit found potential violations of state law in cases where athletics staff used discounts to upgrade to the premium club seating area of Martin Stadium. Those discounts weren't offered to the public or to any other university employees, which could make them an illegal special privilege, the audit found.
Moos confirmed that he gave his administrative staff the opportunity to buy seats at a reduced rate, "as long as there was inventory of unused seats," and seemingly countered the audit's assertion that the practice could be problematic, saying, "that's all on the up and up."