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Air Force Academy chief gets report on school's troubled athletic department

October 7, 2014 Updated: October 7, 2014 at 11:04 pm
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Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, Superintendent of the Air Force Academy during "Field Day" activities Friday, July 11, 2014 at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

The Air Force Academy's superintendent spent most of the morning Tuesday getting briefed on an inspector general's review of the school's troubled athletic department, but details of what she learned weren't released.

Academy officials confirmed the Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson spent hours in a briefing about the review she ordered in August after a Gazette investigation into athlete misconduct. Johnson said the review would analyze whether the school's sports endeavors supported the academy's core values.

Broken Code: AFA superintendent calls for investigation of athletic transgressions

A spokesman said Tuesday he couldn't answer questions on what was said in the briefing, how long the meeting lasted or who was in the room.

It's expected that academy will later disclose the results of the review under a pledge Johnson made in August.

"I continue to pledge transparency and an emphasis on cadet development that provides the right culture and climate so that we can remain focused on the development of all 4,000 cadets and our bright future," Johnson said.

Air Force Academy leaders provide plan to improve character

A delay in the release of findings is the norm, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Anderson, who heads the National Homeland Defense Foundation in Colorado Springs.

"Certainly, the commander has the opportunity to ask questions and request additional information," Anderson said.

Anderson said the report is also likely voluminous, and could take several briefings to digest.

Last month, academy Inspector General Col. David Kuenzli told the school's Board of Visitors that 15 inspectors spent a month reviewing regulations, interviewing some of the athletic department's 300 workers and preparing a report that examines leadership, mission, finances and whether the program meets academy conduct standards.

The academy's athletic program is one of the school's largest departments, overseeing 27 NCAA Division I sports teams that have a quarter the school's cadets on rosters. The department also controls physical education and intramural sports.

The IG findings could prompt changes in the program and could help guide the school's search for a new athletic director. The academy is reviewing applicants to replace Hans Mueh, who announced he'll step down as athletic director by the end of the school year.

Kuenzli didn't reveal findings to the Board of Visitors, but said the report would include observations of key areas, including discipline and whether athletics is accomplishing an Air Force mission.

Questions about conduct in the athletic department stem, in part, from allegations that surfaced after a cadet confidential informant told agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations that cadets, including a core group of football players used drugged rum to incapacitate women for sex during a late 2011 party.

Those claims led to a wider probe of athlete conduct called "Operation Gridiron," which led to the court-martial convictions of three athletes.. Five more cadets received administrative punishment that resulted in their dismissal, another half-dozen cadets resigned and three were kicked out for unrelated misconduct.

The review of athletics is expected to be followed by a review of the academy's prep school, which was the subject of a September Gazette investigation.

Gazette exclusive: Military academies, including AFA, face criticism for using prep schools to fill athletic teams

That investigation found that the prep school, founded to give enlisted airmen a chance at academy enrollment, was dominated by athletes.

The prep school has an enrollment of about 200 and fields a 53-member football squad.


Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

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