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Report: Former Vol Staff Member Fabricated Expenses, Misused Funds

Photo by Kyle Zedaker/Tennessee Athletics

The details of Tennessee’s former Director of Football Operations misuse of school funds has finally come to light.

According to a report from David Cobb of the Times Free Press, Chris Spognardi plead guilty last week to a charge of official misconduct for his role in misusing cash advances from the university. Spognardi was placed on administrative leave back in August of 2016 and was eventually fired. Spognardi had worked with Butch Jones for a decade including his time at Tennessee. He followed Jones from Central Michigan to Cincinnati then to Tennessee.

The comptroller’s investigation showed that Spognardi “provided fabricated or altered documentation to account for at least $14,085 in travel-related cash advances entrusted to him by the UT Athletics Department.” This all reportedly took place between September 2015 and January 2016.

One occasion that was mentioned in the investigation involved an altered invoice for a barbecue restaurant in Columbia, Missouri that catered a meal for the football team while they traveled to face the Missouri Tigers. Spognardi had been provided a cash advance that covered the meal, and the invoice he provided stated that the meal had cost $2,721.60.

But a copy of the actual invoice showed that the total bill was just $2,071.60, leaving a $650 discrepancy. The comptroller’s investigation found six such invoices that had been “completely fabricated” by Spognardi, and those fabrications accounted for nearly $6,000.

Another way Spognardi fabricated reports was via fraudulent tip sheets. The investigation stated that Spognardi claimed he paid a $500 tip to a member of the Kentucky State Highway Patrol for providing travel escort back in 2015. But a representative of the organization informed the comptroller that they did not, in fact, provide travel escort for the game in question. And according to the representative, there wasn’t even someone under their employ with the name Spognardi provided on the tip sheet.

Spognardi also failed to reconcile or return unused money from summer satellite camps according to the reeport.

It was noted in the report that, according to university emails, hotel staff were asked to “bill amenities, including alcoholic beverages, which were ordered for some football staff members’ rooms, as generic ‘food sales.'”

The report concluded by stating that University of Tennessee athletic department officials have “established new practices and procedures” to make sure these incidents do not happen in the future.

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