CHAPEL HILL – Already bruised by scandals involving academic corner-cutting and improper gifts to football players, North Carolina’s flagship public university is confronting a new problem: Allegations of improper travel spending.
The University of North Carolina said Tuesday it had cut loose billion-dollar fundraiser Matt Kupec, a former star quarterback, over possibly improper travel spending. The questions arose from trips that Kupec, who is divorced, shared with another campus fundraiser who is the divorced mother of former Tar Heels basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, university officials said.
“Matt has made significant contributions over the years, raising billions of dollars for the university. However, these are serious issues that require a thorough investigation,” campus Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement, adding that the university has started an audit of all travel-related expenses.
Thorp was not immediately available for an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Kupec issued a statement that didn’t address the reasons for his resignation, but expressed his pride in leading fundraising campaigns that had raised $4 billion in private gifts for the university.
“I will miss you all but in my heart I will always be a part of the Carolina family,” said Kupec, who served as vice chancellor for advancement for 16 years. His annual salary was $349,800. Kupec was the Tar Heels’ starting quarterback for four years in the 1970s and was named Most Valuable Player in the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl.
His resignation comes after questions were raised about trips that Kupec had taken with Tami Hansbrough, a UNC-Chapel Hill fundraiser who is paid $95,000 a year. She was hired to a different development position at the foundation that serves UNC-CH’s dental school in late 2008, months before her son led North Carolina’s men’s basketball team to its most recent national championship. Tyler Hansbrough now plays for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
The connection between Kupec’s resignation and trips he took with Tami Hansbrough at the university’s expense was first reported by The News & Observer of Raleigh. Hansbrough has been placed on “administrative leave” pending an investigation, a university spokesman said. He could not specify whether the terms of Hansbrough’s leave included being paid.
Neither Kupec nor Hansbrough responded Tuesday to telephone and email messages.
The university did not explain Tuesday where Kupec and Hansbrough traveled together, how many trips they shared, or whether the money came from taxpayer funds or university donations. The News & Observer quoted Thorp as saying their trips appear to have included destinations where Tami Hansbrough’s younger son, Ben Hansbrough, was playing basketball for Notre Dame.
The events leading to Kupec’s resignation are a new black eye for the elite public university after two years of troubles.
It began with the NCAA investigating players under since-fired football coach Butch Davis having contact with agents and receiving jewelry and other gifts. The NCAA in March imposed a one-year ban from postseason play, 15 forfeited scholarships and other penalties on the football team. But the probe also found academic fraud – including a tutor who worked on football players’ term papers.
Further investigations found academic fraud including changed grades, no-show classes and lightly supervised independent studies in a department popular among UNC athletes. State criminal investigators are looking into signs of possible forgery, conspiracy, fraud, and whether a professor was paid for summer courses he didn’t fully teach.