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Dane talking plenty about Campbell’s UTM exit now

Dane talking plenty about Campbell’s UTM exit now
Though four days later than originally hoped for, Phil Dane’s call finally came Monday.
And the University of Tennessee at Martin Athletics Director had plenty to say.
In his first correspondence with The Messenger since forcing men’s basketball coach Bret Campbell to resign last week, Dane explained his lack of communication, apologized for part of that, and presented his stance on the University of Tennessee system audit into the use of team camp funds that led to Campbell being ushered out.
Dane, who said he took exception to some of the “tone” of Monday’s column by this writer in separate calls, did acknowledge intentionally not returning the newspaper’s original phone message when the story first was breaking last Thursday.
He claimed he felt it was inappropriate to comment and elected not to while waiting to see if Campbell followed the original direction of their agreement and resigned his duties — given the choice between that or being fired — or elected to go public with the audit and its findings. 
Dane said he never received The Messenger’s second request for comment on the situation, made via a phone call Sunday night. He claimed he’d recently got a new cell phone that hadn’t notified him until Monday mid-afternoon that he’d missed six calls and insisted that he had not simply elected not to return the call as the column suggested.
The Skyhawk AD then disputed Campbell’s claim that the money from the camps was his to disperse however he saw fit — even though the final balance of the camp proceeds indeed went back to Campbell in a general practice by college coaches who make supplemental income with team camps.
Campbell has admitted to not following proper system procedures in place for the last three years while cashing checks from schools and paying officials and making other purchases in order to speed up the payment process for services and goods.
The now ex-coach has insisted however, there was no fraudulent intent on his behalf and accurately pointed out there were no embezzlement implications nor NCAA rules violations in his actions.
The former Skyhawk coach created a personal bank account in which he deposited more than $21,000 over three summers from 2006-08 from withheld checks made to the university from teams participating to operate the team camps. He said the account was not for personal use though.
University policy however, dictates that all camp money must be accounted for by the university before Campbell can redistribute the funds at his discretion. He agreed to repay UTM around $3,000 after the audit’s findings, more than $1,600 of that in payroll taxes for funds not reported to the school.
“It was the university’s money, no matter what Bret says,” Dane stated. “The camp checks were made out to UTM, and that was UTM’s money first. All of the money was not handled the same way. The audit centered on money filtered through his personal account, and only a portion of the camp money from checks withheld ran through the account.
“I don’t buy the notion and the defense that this wouldn’t have happened if our policies and procedures had been different. None of this would have happened if he’d have followed the policies and procedures that were in place.”
Those policies have now reportedly been changed, with coaches no longer handling team registrations or collecting money. The money is now sent to a post office box that is overseen by the department of camps and special programs.
Dane said it took three years for the red flag to be raised on the issue partly because the amount that Campbell was depositing into the separate account and not turning in with the rest of the camp money was not significant enough. A local high school — in an examination of its records — reported last November that Campbell had endorsed its check that prompted the audit, he claimed.
Danelle Fabianich supervised Campbell’s administration of the camps as a bookkeeper outside her university role as Assistant Athletics Director for Administrations/SWA, according to Dane.
He also said that though he had extensive accounting experience with the university as UTM’s Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance, he didn’t consider it a part of his role as athletic director to inspect line-by-line all records. He claimed he would give advice on any such matters if asked though.
As to whether Campbell’s indiscretions warranted him essentially being terminated given his previously clean personnel file, Dane defended his decision to give Campbell the aforementioned ultimatum, but said there was no personal vendetta.
“It was obviously a judgment call on my behalf, and probably the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do because I consider Bret a friend,” Dane said. “In short, I felt like (due to) the seriousness of the findings of the audit report, that he needed not to be here anymore.
“Once I came to that conclusion, I talked to my boss (Chancellor Tom Rakes). I knew from the beginning of this that this could be the outcome, and I felt like we couldn’t move forward (otherwise). I was confident I would be supported.”
Dane said a sexual discrimination lawsuit with Title IX implications brought against him, Fabianich and the university by fired volleyball coach Amy Draper last year did not factor into his decision that there would be stern punishment for Campbell’s deeds.
“Obviously, I’m fully aware of the lawsuit. This had nothing to do with that. I’ve told everybody that came into play, this stood on its own,” Dane claimed. “As a manager, my concern is not to look back, but (to be) looking forward to next disciplinary action or series of disciplinary actions that needs to take place.”
Dane did acknowledge that his decision to force out Campbell was unpopular in some circles and has brought some negative publicity on an athletic program that is coming off its best basketball season in school history and solid back-to-back football campaigns.
He said he hoped time would repair any severed relations and any possible financial fallout from boosters.
“I won’t deny it’ll be a challenge, he claimed. “News like this is never good for any athletic program. My hope is that this will be short-term pain, and in time, things will get worked out and hope to work with Skyhawk Club Board of Directors on how we can communicate openly about the matter. I’m open to anyone who wants to talk.
“As sad as the situation is though, we must move on. I couldn’t make a decision that is wrong just because you just won a championship. You’ve got to do the right thing. I’m not one to take chances with not following the rules, and I feel this was based on the best information we had and that the best decision for our basketball program was made.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at

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