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Yudof Appears Before Legislature
By Tim Pugmire
March 12, 1999
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The University of Minnesota's efforts to address an academic fraud scandal has moved to the State Capitol.

U of M President Mark Yudof appeared before the Senate Higher Education Committee to answer questions from state legislators who made their disappointment clear. Committee members say they're troubled by the incident, but confident that Yudof is taking the right steps.

A DAY AFTER DECLARING FOUR BASKETBALL PLAYERS INELIGIBLE for the NCAA Tournament, University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof told state senators the allegations of academic fraud by players are very serious business. He also repeated his pledge for a thorough investigation and said nothing will be swept under the rug.
Yudof: This should be the cleanest, most above-board, professional quality, external, fair and impartial investigation that we can arrange. When we get the report, we will act upon the report. And all the speculation in the world, in the newspapers or elsewhere, is no substitute for that thorough fact-finding process. And we also intend that investigation to be prompt and to proceed swiftly.
Yudof says the university is looking at outside law firms that specialize in such investigations, but that no one has been hired. He says the investigation should take at least two months. The NCAA could then decide to penalize the school for any violations. Yudof told lawmakers he views this as an isolated event.
Yudof: There are going to be other people who come out and say, you know we had a problem in 1986 or something. Some of these allegations will simply wash out, there'll be nothing to them, some of them will be have truths and others unfortunately will be true. and that's what we need to act on.
Republican Senator Cal Larson of Fergus Falls told Yudof he's disturbed by the problems he sees in modern college sports. He urged the president to root out any wrongdoing at the U of M.
Larson: You've really got to be tough. Be bold and don't be bashful. And I know you won't, but this is going to be a tough job.
Yudof told Larson and other Senators he does not know how much the investigation will cost. But the Senate Higher Education Committee funds much of the university's budget, and DFL Senator Sam Solon of Duluth is concerned about a potentially large, unexpected expense.

Solon: And unfortunately, we're going to have to spend a lot of good university dollars in another area under the numerous legal entanglements that takes money away from the more important things at the university.
Solon also suggested the university look into the academic integrity of its other athletic programs. But Yudof said other student-athletes should not be guilty by association. He says he does not plan for a widespread investigation. DFL Senator Steve Murphy of Red Wing agrees.
Murphy: I think this should be an investigation about the basketball team and shouldn't get blown out of proportion. You know, I don't think that we need more Kenneth Starrs running around.
But Yudof admits academic fraud is not limited to student-athletes. He says it's a growing problem for all colleges and universities, and difficult to police. DFL Senator Leroy Stumpf of Thief River Falls, the committee chairman, says he thinks the university might rely too much on papers and tests. He suggested Yudof consider ways for students to demonstrate what they've learned.
Stumpf: I don't know if you can somehow use this as a jumping off point for outcome-based testing or results-orientated testing. But, anyway, I want to put that out there.
Stumpf later clarified he is not proposing a higher-education version of the Profile of Learning, the controversial K-12 system of outcome measurement. He urged Yudof to keep his committee updated on its investigation into the academic fraud allegations. Stumpf's counterpart in the House, Republican Representative Peggy Leppik of Golden Valley, says her House Higher Education Committee will also monitor the investigation but says she has no plans to call Yudof to testify.

Another person who will be monitoring developments from afar is the Governor.
Ventura: It's not my place to have an opinion. That's why the University of Minnesota and state government are separate.
Governor Ventura again weighed in on the U of M basketball scandal, telling reporters he's confident Yudof and the university regents will appropriately handle the matter. But Ventura is also troubled by the plight of the four players couldn't play in the tournament game.
Ventura: The president and the Board of Regents made their call. I respect their call. I think it was probably under the circumstances the right call. But, what I'm saying is: the bigger picture is it seems there's a double, like I talked about. In the real world you're innocent until they prove you guilty. But in the world of collegiate athletics, apparently you're guilty until they prove you innocent.
University officials say they plan an announcement next week on the hiring of a firm to conduct that investigation.