Audit reveals Minnesota’s Richard Pitino exceeds budget for jet travel

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Richard Pitino has been living lavishly with Minnesota’s travel budget. (USATSI)

Minnesota men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino has “spent twice as much on private jet travel as his contract allows” since taking the Gophers job, according to an internal university audit obtainted by the Star Tribune.

It’s the latest unflattering headline for Pitino.

From the Star Tribune:

In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Pitino topped $100,000 and $150,000 in jet travel, far exceeding the annual $50,000 budget for recruiting trips and “university business” in his contract. The audit found Pitino to have spent $325,000 in three years as of February, compared to a budgeted $150,000 for that time. “Contract limitations are not appropriately monitored,” the report concluded.

It’s worth noting that Pitino’s extra usage of a private jet was approved by then-athletic director Norwood Teague, according to what senior associate AD Chris Werle told the Star Tribune. So it’s not like Pitino disregarded his contract without first clearing it with his boss. Still, the report — which also details over-spending on hotels, private cars, meals, etc., — is troubling, if only because it’s another thing for Minnesota fans to negatively reference.

And there have been a lot of negative things to reference lately.

Most recently,
Illinois State Redbirds
transfer
Reggie Lynch
was arrested Sunday on probable cause of criminal sexual conduct. He was subsequently indefinitely suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. And then there are other things, as detailed by the Star Tribune:

Last August, former player
Daquein McNeil
pleaded guilty to third-degree assault charges. McNeil was charged in November 2014 of felony assault and felony domestic assault for allegedly beating and strangling his girlfriend. The domestic-assault-by-strangulation charge was dismissed. In February, three players were suspended after sex videos appeared on the social media sites of Kevin Dorsey, then a freshman. The involvement of the other two players — Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer — is not clear. The team later announced Dorsey would transfer from the program. No charges came out of that incident.

Plain to see, things are stacking up — as are the losses. Pitino is 51-51 in three seasons at Minnesota after finishing 8-23 this past season. And the man who hired him (Teague) is no longer at Minnesota thanks to a sexual harassment scandal, which means Pitino now has a new boss — it’s former Syracuse AD Mark Coyle, by the way — for whom he’s never worked. So, bottom line, Pitino has on-the-court issues, off-the-court issues and a new AD. That’s less than ideal. And it’s why his fourth season at Minnesota could double as a make-or-break year.

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