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Former Academic Counselor Addresses Cheating Scandal
By William Wilcoxen
April 20, 1999
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The former director of academic counseling for University Of Minnesota student-athletes says several U of M administrators were told of academic problems on the men's basketball team but chose to ignore the concerns. Elayne Donahue spoke to investigators looking into academic fraud allegations at the university.

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ELAYNE DONAHUE SPENT ABOUT NINE HOURS at her lawyer's office meeting with two investigators hired by the university and one from the NCAA. Donahue took an oath to tell the truth and answered questions that were sometimes critical; always polite. But mostly, she says, she described an environment in which the university created the conditions for academic fraud by allowing coach Clem Haskins to insulate the men's basketball team from appropriate oversight.

Donahue headed the Academic Counseling Unit from its inception in 1983 until her retirement last summer. She says when Haskins arrived in the university's Bierman Athletic Building in 1986, he insisted upon total control of the basketball team and staff, including the academic counselor assigned to the team. On paper, all academic counselors reported to Donahue but in practice, Donahue says, she knew very little about what went on with the basketball counselor. Her efforts to learn more produced conflict with Haskins. Donahue says university administrators sided with Haskins.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio last week, Donahue said a succession of counselors to the men's basketball team expressed various concerns about Haskins showing a disregard for academics. She says she finally went to Jim Infante, who was the university's vice-president of academic affairs in the early 1990s. Donahue says Infante seemed concerned and said he would discuss the matter with Nils Hasselmo, the university's president at the time. Donahue said last week her follow-up meeting with Infante was a turning point for her.

In a memo she wrote for the academic fraud investigators, Donahue describes a web of complicity and deceit, which she says included faculty members. She says several professors changed grades retroactively to keep basketball players academically eligible for the team. She says a committee composed mostly of faculty members voted to waive the eligibility requirement of a 2.0 grade point average for Courtney James, a starter on the Gophers' final four team of 1996.

Clem Haskins has issued a statement through his attorney denying any wrongdoing in conduction with the academic fraud allegations. Officials with the University of Minnesota have said they plan to withhold comment on the investigation until it is complete, which is expected to be in the fall.