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Task Force to Look Into University Booster Clubs
By William Wilcoxen
May 7, 1999
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University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof has named a task force to consider athletic department policies regarding the use of money raised by booster clubs. The move comes a week after the university revealed basketball boosters paid for a golf trip by coach Clem Haskins and his staff.

BOOSTER CLUB VOLUNTEERS RALLY SUPPORT and raise money for each of the 21 men's and women's athletic teams at the U of M. The money they raise is generally used to supplement budgets for athletic equipment and facilities. But the U of M Audit Department recommended in March that the university clarify its policy on the use of booster-club funds. The auditor said money is sometimes dedicated for purposes that are not appropriate university expenses, such as a $9,000 trip to Las Vegas for the men's basketball coaches and their spouses. University General Counsel Marc Rotenberg says the task force named by Yudof will make recommendations to clarify how the money should be used.

"All of these booster clubs are independent organizations. They are not university departments and so are not under regents authority or control," said Rotenberg. "But they are organized for the purpose of helping our men and women student athletes and so in that respect we want to be sure everyone has an understanding of the whys and wherefores of those funds and how they're accounted for."

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Rotenberg will oversee the work of the five-member task force, which will report to Yudof by June 4th. Rotenberg says the work of the booster club task force will be unrelated to an investigation of possible academic fraud in the men's basketball program.

Yudof instructed the men's and women's athletic directors that while the task force is conducting its review, booster-club funds should not be spent on gifts for university staff. In a memo, Yudof says he understands that 20 of the university's 21 booster clubs already follow that guideline. The exception would be the "Golden Dunkers," whose members raise about $100,000 a year for the men's basketball team. In addition to paying for coaching staff trips to Las Vegas, the Dunkers presented coach Clem Haskins with a new truck after the Gophers' 1997 trip to the Final Four.

Steve Erban, the incoming president of the Golden Dunkers, says club members agree with Yudof that the task force will be beneficial. "Most of the people that are in the Golden Dunkers are people that are supporting the program, not trying to go around the program or anything," said Erban. Erban says Yudof is showing leadership by forming the task force and he thinks the process will ultimately strengthen the booster club tradition.