UT Gifters Gone Bad

It's really embarrassing, but here's hoping they got the money up front.

Tobie McKenzie has given enough money to the University of Tennessee to have the UT-Chattanooga Roundhouse renamed McKenzie Arena. McKenzie made his money in the rent-to-own and check-cashing services, the kinds of businesses that notoriously prey on the financially strapped. Last week McKenzie, who is from Cleveland, Tenn. filed for personal bankruptcy in the amount of $151 million. His company filed for bankruptcy last summer, but the latest filing lists McKenzie owing millions to a dozen banks, said to be bad real estate investments.

Another embarrassing plaque might include the Kathleen Bolze locker room at Pratt Pavilion on the UT-Knoxville campus, resulting from a gift from Dennis Bolze. The Gatlinburg "broker" and UT booster disappeared in mid-December with a reported $20 million in client funds. Investigators believe a lot of the money is in the Cayman Islands.

No word yet on whether the next UT building will be named after a Nigerian banker's widow with good e-mailing skills.


In this Ear to the Ground item, we correctly reported that check cashing mogul Toby McKenzie who donated money to UT and had the Roundhouse on the Chattanooga campus renamed McKenzie arena had filed for bankruptcy. But we also said he donated money to the UT-Knoxville Aquatics Center. That donation was instead made by Allan Jones, CEO of Check Into Cash, another payday advance company. We regret the error.