Sports Scandals 101

A perfect match...USD wants a new ballpark, 
John Moores got one from the taxpayers.
  • A perfect match...USD wants a new ballpark, John Moores got one from the taxpayers.

Ex-Padres owner John Moores, forced to unload the team during a bitter divorce battle, is expanding his lucrative sports-consulting business to universities and colleges. The latest recruits to his firm are interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas and University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, both advisors to the college division of JMI Sports LLC. Ex–San Diego State athletic director Jeff Schemmel has been named managing director of the operation. “I’m thrilled to be part of a company that provides a much-needed array of services on this ever-changing intercollegiate athletics landscape,” says a statement attributed to Schemmel in a September 26 news release. “I’m equally thrilled to be working alongside people I respect as much as I do Erik Judson and John Moores, and the advisors on our JMI Sports team.”

Schemmel resigned his San Diego State post in November 2009 after it was revealed that he employed taxpayer funds to pay for a trip to see his alleged mistress in Alabama. Upon Schemmel’s exit, then-SDSU president Stephen Weber agreed to forgive a $20,000 home loan, have the state pay Schemmel a $116,000 settlement fee, and write a letter of recommendation for him. Judson, principal of JMI Sports, is a former Padres executive who worked on construction of the team’s Petco Park and still sits on the club’s board.

A consummate wheeler-dealer who convinced San Diego voters to approve a heavy taxpayer subsidy for his downtown baseball stadium, and subsequently avoided prosecution in a 2001 scandal involving unreported gifts to his close friend and then–city councilwoman Valerie Stallings, Moores is now offering his hustler’s expertise to an increasingly money-driven academic sports scene.

According to JMI’s website, “Areas of service include, but are not limited to: sports facility development, NCAA infraction representation and compliance review, coach and executive searches, NCAA reclassification and certification, Title IX and gender equity evaluation, and championship event planning and execution. JMI Sports also provides strategic analysis, guidance and support in the areas of: negotiating media contracts, maximizing marketing and sponsorship opportunities, and growing ticket and fundraising revenue.”

A big local client is the University of San Diego, a Roman Catholic school with close ties to the city’s political, financial, and real estate establishment. The university is working on a luxury-packed $9 million, 3000-seat ballpark-renovation project set to begin next summer and finish in 2013, JMI says, though a USD spokeswoman said in an email Monday that “it is uncertain whether or not the project will begin in 2012 as noted on the JMI web site.” Things may be economically tough for academics these days, but USD appears to be sparing little expense in its quest for sports glory. “Seeking to become one of the premier Division 1 baseball programs in the country, the University of San Diego Toreros are undergoing an extensive ballpark renovation,” according to JMI’s website. “The renovation will completely overhaul the existing facility and provide amenities comparable to top Minor League Baseball parks including an iconic entry, private suites, a press box, a kid’s play area, and open terraces with the design flexibility to host special events.… In addition to providing a distinct competitive advantage to the University’s baseball team, this dynamic facility will strengthen connections with the neighboring community, providing the school and its many alumni and supporters with a top tier venue that pays homage to the unique and treasured aesthetic of the campus.” No word how much Moores — who escaped prosecution in the collapse of his fraud-ridden Peregrine Systems, costing investors $4 billion and sending the company’s chief executive to federal prison with an eight-year sentence — is getting paid by the university.

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If anyone had doubts that collegiate athletics, commonly called "sports", were now big business, this sort of thing should remove them for good. Moores doesn't play around with things that have no payoff, and his payoffs are always big. It should be most disheartening that while the educational mission of most universities is suffering along with the economy in general, some schools have the "pedal to the metal" for their sports programs. At UCLA the head football coach has a compensation package of about $2 million a year. Yet his record there in its fourth season is dismal, and his resume was no better.

When crooks like Moores set their sights on an enterprise, you know that nothing very good will happen.

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