MADISON (WKOW) -- UW football players used scholarship funds earmarked for housing and food to purchase mopeds, and in some cases, cars.
Senior Jonathan Casillas told 27 News the practice of ciphoning money from room and board uses made sense.
"Once you get to your second, third year, you start learning what's cheap (housing), what's expensive. Maybe live with somebody and split the rent. And hopefully you can get a moped, or maybe even a car. Some people got cars."
Casillas told 27 News he bought his moped from a housing scholarship stipend. Casillas was also arrested on that moped for alleged first offense drunk driving. Casillas has a plea hearing scheduled for April 22.
27 News verified at least 22 starting players or top reserves on the roster of the Badger football team which played in last December's Champs Sports Bowl have received traffic citations on mopeds, including tight end Lance Kendricks' conviction for drunk driving on a moped.
Any correlation between traffic citations and scholarship-funded mopeds is unclear. But Casillas suggested using the stipend for transportation was not uncommon, with mopeds a desireable commodity. "That's how I got around campus."
"I think a housing stipend should be used for housing," former UW Athletic board member Jeremi Suri told 27 News.
UW Athletic Department officials said the room and board stipend for full scholarship athletes living off-campus for the current school year is $8,986 (housing: $6,028; food: $2,958). The monthly average is $1,009.
Officials said the stipend amount is derived using a formula provided by the NCAA which factors in the listed, average costs of on-campus housing and food for all students.
Off campus room and board subsidies provided to full scholarship student athletes at several other Big Ten schools surveyed by 27 News were consistent with stipend amounts at UW. At Ohio State, officials said full scholarship athletes received $15,988 for room and board to cover four academic quarters, with a monthly average of $1,332.
"We're using campus costs, and plugging that into the NCAA formula," UW Associate Athletic Director Vince Sweeney told 27 News.
The NCAA formula is available to member schools for calculating housing and food costs, but not required.
Sweeney told 27 News he was unaware some football players used housing or food stipends to purchase mopeds and cars.
But Sweeney said the decision on using the funds was up to student-athletes.
"Our obligation to them is to issue them a check," Sweeney said. "How they manage that is their business.
Suri said the athletic department's lack of financial accountability was one of the reasons he resigned from the athletic board last year.
"(It's) A process where we're supposed to have faith that a few people who have their hands on the checkbook know the appropriate uses of the money."
"Perhaps some of the housing money is being misused. I think we need to have that discussion."
Sweeney acknowledged the athletic department is not immune from the current economic crisis, and must examine the department's budget line item spending. But Sweeney said "student welfare" expenses such as room and board would be the last items to be considered for cuts, and disagreed with any characterization the room and board stipends were being abused, or were too generous.
"If there's enough money left over in sharing an apartment, that's their decision to make."
Junior P.J. Hill told 27 News the scholarship stipends were in line with housing and food costs. Hill said he avoided using the funds for transportation.
"I was pretty smart in the way I used my money," Hill told 27 News.
Several days after Hill's 27 News interview, authorities said Hill was arrested for alleged drunken driving in a rental car.
To provide more information, or comment, contact reporter Tony Galli: firstname.lastname@example.org
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