As a sought-after youth volleyball coach, Dana Wall has her pick of jobs. But ask about her most important work, and she’ll talk about the travel team she started in Salem, North Carolina. “There are families here with five or six kids who have to make really tough choices about youth sports,” she says. “There’s a lot of families that are struggling to put food on the table.”
Wall, a former AAU national champion, opened her club in 2012 under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic Union, one of the largest youth sports groups in the country and a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization. That’s why she often paid out of her own pocket for basics such as knee pads and, on the travel circuit, hotel rooms for her team. “I charged a minimal amount, just so we could make it happen,” says Wall, an AAU regional volleyball director.
In the hands of volunteers like Wall, the AAU looks very much like the helping-hand nonprofit touted in its mission: to provide “amateur sports through a volunteer base for all people to have the physical, mental and moral development of amateur athletes to promote good sportsmanship and good citizenship.”
The AAU is also a big business. It has nearly 700,000 members and organizes hundreds of sanctioned national tournaments that generate more than $20 million a year — a total almost evenly split between individual membership and team tournament fees.
But an Outside the Lines investigation has found that, in recent years, the AAU has operated in ways that raise questions about its adherence to its mission as a nonprofit organization. Interviews with more than a dozen people with intimate knowledge of the AAU, as well as reviews of public tax documents and confidential financial records, show:
” Executive leaders quietly paid the AAU’s former president, Robert “Bobby” Dodd, $1.5 million when he stepped down in late 2011 amid allegations that he had molested young basketball players as a coach.
” The AAU ran up a $500,000 deficit over several years putting on its annual gala at a private club near New York City’s Central Park. To cut costs in 2013 and 2014, the gala was moved to Orlando, Florida. This past April, however, the nonprofit’s new leadership moved it back to New York.
” Current AAU president Roger Goudy showed a pattern of spending that raised internal concerns. In 2014, for instance, he charged nearly $17,000 on his corporate credit card over two weekends in Hermosa Beach, California, during national AAU events, twice staying at a pricey resort.
” A former AAU executive questions the AAU’s 2014 federal tax filing, which states that Goudy, in his prior role in the Florida-based organization, worked 30 hours a week while at the same time holding a full-time job running an Ohio school district.
” Volleyball has become the AAU’s second-largest moneymaker, growth partly attributed to the nonprofit’s partnership with a successful coach who had once been banned by another national volleyball group over allegations he’d had sexual relationships with three minors.
” The AAU carries a nearly $12 million budget surplus, an amount that far exceeds what one expert on nonprofits says is necessary or even responsible.
” And it has exhibited a culture of secrecy that, some members say, prevents them from questioning internal spending practices out of fear that money to the districts they oversee will be cut.
“The issue is not whether you spend money or not,” says Ken Berger, a longtime analyst of charities and their spending practices. “The issue is how. Are you thrifty about it? Are you very careful about it? [Nonprofit revenue] is precious. It’s mission money. And you want to be as effective in its use as possible. You don’t spend thousands and thousands of dollars on lush accommodations.”
Despite repeated requests, the AAU declined to make Goudy or any other official available for an interview or comment.
ON JULY 11, 2014, Roger Goudy boarded a United Airlines flight from Cleveland to Los Angeles. It was three days after his 63rd birthday, and he’d just wrapped up his sixth year as superintendent of the Madison School District in Ohio.
Now it was time to head into a busy summer as chairman of the AAU’s volleyball committee and to oversee two AAU beach volleyball tournaments on the shores of Hermosa Beach, California. After renting a car, he made his way to the Hermosa Beach House, a luxury resort, to attend the first of them — the AAU’s junior nationals.
More than 250 two-person teams would crowd onto the beach that weekend, each having paid an average entry fee of $65 in addition to $14 individual AAU memberships. All told, the tournament would generate an estimated $25,000 for the AAU.
Records obtained by Outside the Lines show that Goudy spent $6,910 of that at the hotel. It’s unclear whether his bill included rooms for anyone else, but sources who were there said they saw a large collection of AAU officials sitting behind the glass of their water-front rooms, taking photos and “hanging out.” Two other AAU officials submitted $2,682 in total charges for their stays.
As the weekend wore on, Goudy’s corporate card was used to charge $1,623 at a steakhouse called Fonz’s and another $878 at an Italian restaurant called The Bottle Inn. An itemized copy of his bill from that restaurant, also obtained by Outside the Lines, shows that it included 14 entrees and an alcohol tab with beer and two bottles of red wine. Total charges on Goudy’s card before he flew, first class, back to Cleveland after three days: $10,327.94.
The AAU held its West Coast Junior Olympic Games at the same spot on Hermosa Beach less than two weeks after the junior nationals. On July 23, Goudy returned for that event.
According to his corporate American Express statement, he went to The Bottle Inn, where this time the alcohol tab included five bottles of wine and 16 beers on a $935 bill. He would entertain at Fonz’s again, too, spending $1,970 on a single night.
Goudy’s corporate card also was used to settle a $337 tab at Hennessey’s Tavern, one for $267 at a bar on the beach and a $312 bill at Zane’s, a four-star restaurant with ocean views. Finally, there was a $666 charge for a nearby comedy and magic club.
By the time he returned home from that weekend trip, records show, Goudy had run up $17,027 in charges on his corporate account for July 2014.
Goudy once described his AAU work as volleyball chairman as being done “on my spare time and weekends.” But the AAU’s federal tax form states that he worked 30 hours a week through fiscal 2014. Ron Crawford, who served as the AAU’s treasurer from 1992 until last December, called that estimate improbable and questioned whether it was inflated to justify Goudy’s $81,250 AAU salary.
“He could not and did not do this,” Crawford told Outside the Lines. “I will testify in court that this could not be the case.”
GOUDY’S SIGNATURE ACHIEVEMENT in the AAU has been to make volleyball its second-largest sport. He achieved that by striking an alliance with a powerful Chicago-area coach, Rick Butler.
Butler coached in the AAU having been banned by another volleyball organization after its ethics panel found he had lured three minors into having sex with him. He fought the charges, claiming the girls were all of legal age and the relationships were consensual.
Despite that ban, Goudy struck a deal that aligned the AAU with a league Butler helped create, the Junior Volleyball Association. Thousands of new members suddenly entered the AAU from the JVA. In 2013 — four years after the alliance — Goudy boasted that, thanks to the JVA, his season-ending tournament for 16-year-olds had set the Guinness record for the world’s largest indoor event, drawing 2,631 teams that each paid hundreds in entry fees.
In 2014, the AAU estimated volleyball would bring in revenues of $418,100 and make a profit of $184,650. With Goudy as volleyball chairman, however, the nonprofit’s revenues and expenses skyrocketed, according to a profit-loss ledger obtained by Outside the Lines. More than $710,000 in revenues were booked, but expenses for the year topped $696,000, giving the sport group a year-end profit of just $13,407.
One category in particular stands out: the group’s travel. The ledger lists five travel categories totaling $244,345 in expenses. The line item “Chairmen’s travel” indicates that Goudy spent $116,889 traveling for the AAU — or an average of $2,247 a week, when he was still working full time in Madison, Ohio.
Crawford, the AAU’s treasurer, says he confronted Goudy about the spending at a board meeting and was rebuffed. “The answer was,” Crawford says, “‘I’m out selling something, creating new memberships.'”
When shown the records by Outside the Lines, Berger, the managing director of Algorhythm, which specializes in providing data-driven analytics to nonprofits, said: “I don’t see that that often. It looks really excessive.”
BUTLER WAS NOT the only official to have decades-old allegations of sexual abuse raised about him while at the AAU.
In 2011, Bobby Dodd, the AAU’s president since 1992, was making $225,000 a year and living rent-free in an AAU-owned house when former players of his basketball club told Outside the Lines that he had molested them in the early 1980s. Dodd, who declined comment, has previously denied the accusations through his attorney and said he left the AAU so he could battle colon cancer. Dodd’s AAU contract, which was obtained by Outside the Lines, specifically spelled out that the only way the AAU could withhold his salary was if he were convicted of dishonest behavior or fraud within the AAU or convicted of a felony or any crime involving theft or moral turpitude.
But because prosecutors never actually pressed charges, the nonprofit’s top officers voted to give him an exit package that totaled $1.5 million. Nearly $600,000 of that was described in the tax filing as an out-of-court settlement.
Crawford, the AAU official who negotiated the settlement, told Outside the Lines that the former president was on the cusp of hiring a lawyer to sue for the remaining money on his five-year contract. “It would have been a bloodbath,” he says.
Crawford says he saved the AAU at least $500,000 in legal fees plus the cost of additional negative publicity. Anyone who wanted to examine the agreement had to come to Orlando and request permission to see it. “Just because I made it available didn’t mean I had to hand it to you,” he says, acknowledging the intent was to make the agreement hard to see. “It was time to put it all behind us.”
Robin Brown-Beamon, a member of the AAU’s board of directors at the time, says she and others felt their hands were forced. “We were all given a numbered piece of paper with the financial terms of the settlement. All we got to do was look at it. … When our time was up, the paper was collected, and we weren’t allowed to ask any questions.”
Berger called the decision to pay Dodd misguided. “The thinking should be, ‘Even if it costs us to go to court to do it, and even if there’s a spotlight, we’re doing the right thing,'” he says. “In the long run, you’ll have much more public confidence if you take that approach rather than to try to, what might appear to be, sweep it under the rug.”
Henry Forrest, a former court bailiff and Arkansas state trooper who was the AAU’s vice president at the time, says he was the only one of the top four officers not to sign off on the deal. “I didn’t think it was the right thing,” he says. “It wasn’t clear to me why we were settling.”
Five months after that deal was struck, the man who replaced Dodd, Louis Stout, died at the age of 73, leaving Forrest next in line to inherit the job.
Forrest, who earned $363,220 as president and an additional $25,608 in other compensation, according to records, says he viewed his most important task as rolling back the nonprofit’s excesses. From 2013-14, for instance, he says he ended the practice of holding the AAU’s annual awards ceremony at the New York Athletic Club, adjacent to Manhattan’s Central Park. Instead, he moved it to a conference room of the AAU’s Orlando headquarters and put guests up in $89 hotel rooms.
But Forrest’s time at the top was not without controversy. In September 2014, Brown-Beamon came under fire for allegedly overspending in her job as the head of the track and field committee. Crawford, the longtime treasurer, came under attack for cronyism.
In the fall of 2014, Goudy announced that he was going to mount a challenge to Forrest. Appealing to critics who saw Forrest as a captive of Dodd’s holdovers, Goudy promised a “new day.” He touted his doctoral degree in educational administration from the University of Akron and said he’d repair relations with groups alienated by the recent scandals.
By the time the more than 800 delegates descended on the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach to cast their votes in October 2014, the campaign had turned ugly. Messages sent to members from an email account called “Save the Union” falsely accused Forrest of not graduating from UCLA, as he stated on his rsum. “Is the AAU really going to take a chance and elect a president that is committing fraud by lying on his rsum?” the mass email asked.
Crawford, meanwhile, got ahold of Goudy’s American Express bill and financial ledgers and told Outside the Lines, “I was alarmed. My reaction was how in the world could we spend that much money on one month?” He says he urged Forrest to make an issue of them. Forrest says he was “surprised” by Goudy’s credit card statements but thought making a campaign issue out of the spending would backfire.
When the dust settled, Goudy had garnered 462 of the more than 800 votes cast and won the election.
The next morning, Forrest says, his presidential email account was disabled and he was told he could no longer have access to his files.
Aides of Forrest, who remains the AAU’s boys basketball chairman in Arkansas, also came under scrutiny. Brown-Beamon was formally accused of engaging “in a pattern of extravagant and unreasonable expenditures” and eventually expelled from the organization. (She appealed and lost but maintains she did nothing wrong.) Crawford retired. In a rhetorical goodbye to friends, Crawford sent an email calling the election a “white collar lynching.”
Some of the reforms Goudy promised during his election campaign, such as posting executive salaries — including his own — have not come to fruition. He also moved the Sullivan Awards back to the New York Athletic Club on Central Park, despite its history of losing money there.
Says Crawford: “It makes no business sense to hold the Sullivan Awards at the New York Athletic Club.”
Shortly after he won election, Goudy told a reporter: “One thing we do in the AAU is, behind closed doors, we fight it out. … Now the challenge is for all of us to pull together for the good of kids and the good of the organization.”
All of the scandal has left Wall, the North Carolina volleyball coach who paid expenses for her players, so concerned that she says she’s considering leaving her position as an AAU regional volleyball director.
“When I started my own little club, I had a lot of home-schooled kids and kids from very large families, and I charged a minimal amount so we could make it happen,” says Wall, who retired from coaching this year. “I’m really proud of that. In this line of work, there’s just no room to stay in fancy hotels and charge bottles of wine. You need to draw a line.”
Producer William Weinbaum of ESPN’s Enterprise/Investigative Unit contributed to this report.