Audit: Iowa should better track recruiting travel

The University of Iowa athletics department will enhance its oversight of recruiting trips taken by coaches to decrease the risk of NCAA rules violations after an internal audit found some shortcomings, school officials said Friday.

Nearly half of the records of 52 recruiting trips randomly reviewed by auditors could not be linked to a specific player's recruiting record, making it hard for staff to monitor, a March 24 report by the Office of Internal Audit found. Trips are not approved by managers beforehand, and were not entered into the university's travel system until after the coaches had departed nearly one-third of the time, the report found.

"The lack of corroborating documentation in recruiting databases indicates that recruiting travel is not effectively logged," auditors wrote in the report. They concluded the school has solid procedures to monitor and account for recruiting activities generally but those "surrounding coaches recruiting travel should be augmented" to ensure compliance with rules that strictly limit the nature and timing of contacts with prospective athletes.

Auditors also recommended that the athletic department's compliance staff be given access to the coaches' credit card spending information in a university travel database to better monitor their trip expenses.

Director of Internal Audit Todd Stewart said Friday that some of the trips are not approved until after they've been taken because of the often hectic pace of recruiting.

"They are constantly shifting their travel plans and catching a flight immediately to go here or there," he said. He said athletics department officials "are looking at the practicality and they are saying, when it's possible, they will do better."

Associate Athletics Director Mary Curtis said coaches and their aides will be reminded to make sure they identify which recruits or high schools they are visiting on specific trips when entering information in the university's travel system. She said that information will then be periodically checked against a separate database in which they log their contacts with individual recruits to make sure they match.

"It was just asking us to go back and do a better job of doing additional checks and balances between the trips and the recruiting database. It's like extra security," she said. "They found that we hadn't really done this particular type of audit as much we should have during the timeframe they chose."

Curtis said it will be a goal to get more trips approved beforehand, but that will not be a requirement because of the nature of recruiting. She said that coaches are aware of NCAA rules and should know when they are allowed to travel.

She said some of the problems were caused because the audit period happened to coincide with the departure of two staff members with oversight responsibilities. Compliance staff already has been given access to the credit card spending database for coaches, she said.

The Office of Internal Audit performed the review to comply with an NCAA rule that requires schools' compliance programs to be evaluated by an outside entity every four years. Members of the Iowa Board of Regents, the school's governing body, were given a brief summary of the report in their agenda materials this week. The board office released a copy of the four-page report in response to an inquiry.

"There were some findings and recommendations were made, and it's my expectation those will be followed," said Regent Jack Evans of Cedar Rapids, who chairs the board's audit committee.

Among other things, NCAA rules say that recruits can't be contacted prior to the summer after their junior year in high school and heavily regulate their face-to-face meetings with coaches. Stewart said he was not aware of any serious travel-related infractions.

The report was shared with UI President Sally Mason and Athletics Director Gary Barta, among others.