Fired Northern Kentucky University athletics director admitted skimming up to $150,000, school says

University says it is continuing to investigate

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - Fired Northern Kentucky University athletics director Scott Eaton admitted that he diverted between $100,000 and $150,000 in university resources for personal purposes over eight years, NKU President Geoffrey S. Mearns revealed in a letter Tuesday to the Board of Regents.

Mearns added that the university is continuing to investigate to determine "the full extent and nature of Dr. Eaton's financial misconduct."

At this time, Eaton has not been charged with any crime.

NKU revealed April 5 that it fired Eaton for having "intimate, inappropriate relationships" with four university employees, including two he supervised. Eaton had a similar relationship with a student in a class he taught,  NKU said.

After firing Eaton, Mearns said the university hired an accounting firm to conduct a thorough financial review of the athletic department. He said continuing the investigation would also address "the need for appropriate corrective action to prevent similar actions in the future."

In his Tuesday letter, Mearns said the university would cooperate with state and federal authorities in a criminal investigation of Eaton.

"Considering the nature of the financial misconduct, I determined that this matter should be referred to law enforcement agencies," Mearns wrote, adding that university counsel had contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky and that he had spoken personally Tuesday with Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

Mearns held a press conference Tuesday during which he said the investigation would determine if Eaton's admissions were correct.

"Mr. Eaton now has admitted that he engaged in a pattern of conduct, of financial misconduct and that he specifically had diverted a substantial amount of university resources for his own personal use," said Mearns.

Mearns told reporters the funds Eaton admitted to stealing were taken solely from the athletic department.

"These were monies that were appropriated to use for our athletics program. This was money that was designed to support our student athletes, coaches, and everyone committed to the academic and athletic success of our athletes and I believe we're entitled to have Mr. Eaton repay us for those financial losses," said Mearns.

Student athletes also hope the school will be able to recover at least part of the money lost.

"We don't get that much scholarship money in the first place because we're brand new. So that he's stealing the money just doesn't seem right," said track athlete Nicole Riveron.

Mearns had announced the reason for Eaton's firing in a similar April 5 letter to the NKU board.

"During the investigation conducted by our outside counsel, Dinsmore & Shohl, Dr. Eaton admitted that he had inappropriate, intimate relationships with four university employees, including two women whom he supervised," that letter stated. "Three of those women are no longer employed by the university."

It added, "Dr. Eaton also admitted that he had an inappropriate, intimate relationship with a student in a class in which he was the instructor."

The letter stated Eaton failed to disclose the relationships prior to the investigation.

"This pattern of misconduct, which he acknowledged, constitutes a violation of our Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct," Mearns wrote.

Eaton was fired March 18 for violating NKU's Code of Conduct, but no other details were released at the time.

Mearns said an investigation into his decision began March 8, when he became aware of a pattern of possible misconduct. On March 11, additional information was received and outside counsel was hired the following day to conduct an independent investigation.
Eaton helped to lead the NKU athletic program into the Division I Atlantic Sun Conference in July of last year. Eaton assumed the role of athletic director on July 27, 2009.
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