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Cheating Allegations Rock University
By William Wilcoxen
March 10, 1999
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University of Minnesota officials are meeting with the National Collegiate Athletic Association to develop a plan for investigating academic-fraud allegations involving the University of Minnesota men's-basketball team. A copyrighted story in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press this morning alleges a former U of M staff member wrote research papers and homework assignments for at least 20 basketball players over several years.

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See the collection of storieson the cheating scandal compiled by the MPR Newsroom.

A FORMER OFFICE MANAGER IN A UNIVERSITY OF MINNEOSTA'S Academic Counseling Office told the Pioneer Press she wrote hundreds of assignments - including research papers and take-home tests - for U of M basketball players from 1993 through 1998. If the allegations are true, they would constitute violations of U of M and NCAA rules, and would be a blow to the integrity of the men's basketball program. University President Mark Yudof is returning from an out-of-town engagement to investigate. Vice-President for Institutional Relations Sandra Gardebring says the allegations strike at the heart of the University's academic mission.
GARDEBRING: These are astounding allegations. They're very troubling. We take them very seriously and the president has directed that we respond very promptly and in a very aggressive way.
Former staff member Jan Gangelhoff reportedly supplied the Pioneer Press with computer disks containing many of the assignments she says she wrote for basketball players. At the time, the academic counselor assigned to the men's basketball team reported to basketball coach Clem Haskins rather than to the Director of Academic Counseling.

Some former U of M players were quoted confirming Gangelhoff's accounts. Two players reportedly denied the allegations. Sandra Gardebring, a former State Supreme Court Justice, says the veracity of the allegations is not yet clear.
GARDEBRING: These are untested allegations. These are untested by any kind of investigation or review. We read them in the paper just like you did. On the other hand - if proven - these are very serious allegations that go to the way we run one of our major athletics programs and we take that very seriously.
Gardebring says the University is looking at the possibility of rules violations and is in contact with the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference. She says if the University finds probable cause, administrators will then issue a plan for a thorough investigation.
Gardebring: We will detail for the NCAA and for the citizens of Minnesota what is our plan to get to the bottom of these allegations.
The basketball team is currently in Seattle, where they will play in the first round of the NCAA Championship Tournament. The publication of the Pioneer Press article on the eve of the tournament game incensed Governor Jesse Ventura, who called the paper's timing despicable.
Ventura: They felt the need to release this story the day before the NCAA Tournament? It couldn't have waited until after? It's just another example of sensational journalism, and the fact that their needs are more important than anyone else's and to get that story out there so they could take the pleasure from the young people who've worked so hard to get to this tournament and somehow try to spoil it for them.
Pioneer Press Editor Walker Lundy says the paper worked on the story for three months but conducted key interviews late last week. Lundy says the paper got a response from the U of M on Tuesday and printed the story Wednesday without regard to the tournament.
Lundy: I think the governor was suggesting somehow we hold the story. I'm not sure what, until after the Gophers lost or whatever, but we're not in the business of holding news. We're in the business of when we get news and it's ready to go, publishing it.
Lundy says the nature of the story makes it sensational. He wishes Governor Ventura had addressed the issues raised in the piece.
Lundy: I'd have felt better if the governor had found time in his statement to say that he thought people doing other people's homework was a bad idea, but he really never got around to talking about that.
Controversy has dogged the U of M men's basketball team before. In 1986, three players were charged with sexually assaulting a University of Wisconsin student in her dormitory after a game. They were acquitted after a high-profile trial.

When Haskins was hired, he was hailed as a coach with the integrity to repair the image of the basketball program.

Around the country, academic scandals involving college students are not uncommon. Joe Nathan, who directs the Center for School Change at the U of M's Humphrey Institute, says it's time to re-organize the way major college sports are run. Nathan emphasized he spoke, not on behalf of the University, but as a private citizen. He says NCAA eligibility rules for student athletes are winked at in many quarters.
Nathan: I think we are caught in a system that is a very badly-designed system. And I'm not defending what allegedly happened. But I'm saying as I have studied the NCAA over the last five years, I can assure you that newspapers and radio stations and television stations all over the United States have found other examples of very bad abuses within, particularly, football and basketball, which are the two highest-profile, highest-revenue sports.
Nathan says major college sports would be less hypocritical if athletes were paid and had the opportunity to attend classes, but were not required to do so.