Tami Hansbrough resigns at UNC; more details about trips emerge

acurliss@newsobserver.comSeptember 12, 2012 

Tami Hansbrough, Student Affairs, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

DAN SEARS — Dan Sears UNC-Chapel Hill

Tami Hansbrough, the mother of former basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, resigned her position as a fundraiser at UNC-Chapel Hill on Wednesday as officials studied a range of trips she took with chief fundraiser Matt Kupec.

Kupec, who resigned Sunday amid questions about the travel, was in a relationship with Tami Hansbrough. Hansbrough had been on administrative leave.

“Tamara Hansbrough has resigned her position as a major gifts officer, effective immediately, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” according to a short news release from the university late Wednesday.

The News & Observer has confirmed that university officials are studying at least six trips taken by Kupec and Hansbrough that coincided with basketball games for Hansbrough’s son, Ben, while he was a star player at Notre Dame.

UNC officials have not provided any further details about travel at university expense that Chancellor Holden Thorp has said in an interview was unacceptable. UNC has not provided any records about the trips, including costs to the university, whether Kupec and Hansbrough reimbursed the university, and other details.

“We are in the preliminary stages of our review,” said Regina Stabile, a university lawyer.

In response to questions from The N&O, Karen Moon, director of news services at UNC, confirmed that Kupec and Hansbrough traveled together to:

• Louisville, Ky., in December 2010, when Notre Dame played Kentucky in a nationally televised game at Louisville’s Freedom Hall.

• New York City in January 2011, when Notre Dame played St. John’s in Madison Square Garden.

• Tampa, Fla., in February 2011, when Notre Dame played at the University of South Florida in Tampa’s Sun Dome.

• Morgantown, W.Va., in February 2011, when Notre Dame played at West Virginia.

• Hartford, Conn., in March 2011, when Notre Dame played at Connecticut.

• New York City in March 2011, when Notre Dame played in the Big East Conference basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Ben Hansbrough’s final college season was 2010-2011. He was named the Big East player of the year in March 2011 and was Notre Dame’s leading scorer.

It would not be unusual for university fundraisers to travel where the school’s sports teams are playing as part of meeting with alumni and cultivating donors. UNC’s basketball team was not playing in those locations at the times Kupec and Hansbrough were there.

It is possible that Kupec or Hansbrough also met with UNC donors while attending the Notre Dame basketball games. But Thorp has said the information he has reviewed shows “personally driven” travel.

Kupec has declined comment. Hansbrough could not be reached Wednesday.

Twenty-five trips together

The resignations of Kupec and Hansbrough have added to a string of embarrassments at the university, including NCAA sanctions against the football team and an ongoing investigation into academic fraud involving student athletes in UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies.

Thorp has said he stopped Kupec from hiring Hansbrough in 2010 as a fundraiser in Kupec’s office because he knew the two were in a relationship. By the next year, however, Kupec had funded a position in the university’s division of student affairs. Hansbrough was hired for that job after what Winston Crisp, the vice chancellor for student affairs, has described as an “independent, wide-open, full search.”

Crisp has said he was also aware of the relationship between Hansbrough and Kupec and knew that the two would travel together to events. He said he was unaware until recently of questions about the validity of their travel.

The N&O confirmed that Hansbrough and Kupec traveled together at least 25 times since May 2010. Those trips included two nights on the Outer Banks over the July Fourth weekend in 2010, a fall trip to Asheville that year, several nights in Montana in 2011, and a trip to Naples, Fla., in 2012.

Moon confirmed that Kupec and Tami Hansbrough were in Charlotte in 2011 and Memphis, Tenn., in 2012. Those trips coincided with NBA games for Tyler Hansbrough, who now plays for the Indiana Pacers.

She said it’s not clear whether all of the travel was inappropriate.

“It’s important to point out that we are conducting an audit to determine the legitimacy of the travel,” Moon said Wednesday in an email message before Tami Hansbrough’s resignation was announced.

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Curliss: 919-829-4840