By William Wilcoxen
April 20, 1999
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.
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.