SAN DIEGO — The Holiday Bowl secretly paid former Memphis State basketball Coach Dana Kirk $5,000 for his team to appear in the San Diego Lions Club-Holiday Bowl basketball tournament in December of 1985, John Reid, Holiday Bowl executive director, said Tuesday.
In a pretrial hearing for Kirk, who will stand trial June 22 on charges of tax evasion, mail fraud and obstruction of justice, U.S. Attorney Hickman Ewing Jr. Tuesday filed a motion to that effect in U.S. District Court in Memphis.
Ewing said Tuesday during a telephone interview that Kirk allegedly solicited the money in return for his team's appearance in the tournament.
Ewing alleged that Kirk failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service the payments that he received for tournament appearances and failed to inform Memphis State about them. He was fired in September, about two months before being indicted.
Reid said that, technically, Kirk was paid the $5,000 to speak at a pretournament luncheon hosted by the Lions Club, but Reid's understanding was that the money was spent to secure the team's appearance.
Ewing alleged that Kirk requested the money in cash and that payment be kept confidential.
Kirk's lawyers said prosecutors waited too long before announcing they would include the $5,000 payment in their case.
Reid, who was part of the negotiating team that secured Memphis State's appearance, said Kirk was paid the $5,000 because the tournament was "scrambling" to secure a big-name team.
"There was financial consideration for Kirk," Reid said. "We were painted in a corner. . . . We were left without a (big-name) team. It is something we might not consider under different circumstances."
He said he was not aware of similar payments to other coaches, although it is a common practice to pay teams to appear in tournaments.
Bill Finley, then-tournament director, denied any knowledge of a payment to Kirk. He said that Memphis State was paid $35,000 to play in the tournament.
It is not an NCAA violation for either a tournament to offer or for a coach to accept such payment, NCAA spokesman Jim Marchiony said.
"It's between the school and the coach," Marchiony said. "It's an institutional matter instead of an NCAA matter."
Kirk's attorneys were trying to have the evidence suppressed Tuesday because they said their client did not have time to prepare a defense.
Ewing said he did not learn of the alleged payment until after Kirk had been indicted on charges of soliciting and accepting $10,000 from the Winston Tire Classic tournament in Louisiana in December of 1983. Kirk is also charged with soliciting $2,000 from the Sugar Bowl tournament in 1982. The Sugar Bowl tournament refused to pay and Kirk pulled his team from the tournament, Ewing said.
Ewing said investigators have developed evidence that the Holiday Bowl wrote a check for $5,000 to the Lions Club, which purchased a $5,000 cashier's check in Kirk's name in late December of 1985.