By Laura McCallum
June 25, 1999
The University of Minnesota announced today that men's basketball coach Clem Haskins is stepping down at the end of the month. The university is buying out the remaining three years of his contract for $1.5 million,
amid allegations of academic fraud in the men's basketball program. Some
observers think the buyout is outrageous, while others say the university had little choice.
UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT MARK YUDOF
says investigators have found no evidence
linking Clem Haskins to the scandal. But he says numerous, substantial
violations of the university's academic conduct code did occur on Haskins' watch, and he wants to restore confidence in the university.
Yudof: We've reached this agreement with Clem Haskins because we have concluded that
for the good of the men's basketball program and the university, a change in the
management of the program is necessary.
An attorney representing four women who accused the basketball program of
impropriety says his clients are stunned by the amount of the buyout. Jim Lord
represents Jan Gangelhoff, who says she did course work for basketball players;
her sister Jean Payer; Elayne Donahue, former head of academic counseling for
student athletes; and tutor Rebecca Fabunmi. Lord says his clients
can't believe Haskins - the central figure in the investigation - will profit
from the scandal. But he says they're not surprised he's stepping down.
Lord: It's nothing that they were urging on anybody. I think they knew the facts
would speak for themselves, and once there was a revelation of the facts, the
natural consequence has occurred, Clem Haskins is leaving. The amount of money they're giving him is a whole different story.
Lord says a buyout is unnecessary, because Haskins' actions may constitute a
breach of contract, relieving the university of any obligation to pay him. But
former Gopher men's basketball coach Jim Dutcher says he thinks the university
had no choice but to compensate Haskins for terminating his contract. The
contract guaranteed Haskins about $423,000 even if the university
could prove just cause for firing him, and if he was fired without cause, he
would get about $1.3 million plus several hundred thousand in
benefits. Dutcher says the amount of the buyout doesn't surprise him.
Dutcher: Coaching salaries and the positions have certainly changed through the years,
and so that number a few years ago would have been a staggering number. In
today's marketplace for Division one coaches, it's not an unreasonable number.
Dutcher says he received no such golden parachute when he resigned in 1986,
after three of his players were arrested on suspicion of rape. He says he was
paid through the end of the year, and even though he had another year remaining
on his contract, he says he told the university he didn't expect to get paid for
The money for Haskins' buyout will come from men's athletic department revenue,
not taxpayer dollars. But at least one lawmaker thinks the high-priced buyout
will put the university's funding requests under greater scrutiny at the
Capitol. DFL Representative Andy Dawkins of St. Paul objects to making Haskins
a millionaire for not coaching.
It seems to me that the deck of cards that the University of Minnesota Regents
have to play with is an inadequate deck; that our current society and the rules
that we have these days has it set up that the university has to make a very
difficult choice. But there should be a third option: somebody should come
forward and say, "no, our world should not run that you have to pay off people a
million bucks so they can't sue you for breach of contract."
But Dawkins says cutting the U's funding may not be the answer, because that
would likely penalize students by resulting in higher tuition.
In a brief statement, Haskins made no mention of the allegations, saying he will
miss his team and continue to support his players. He compiled 240 wins in 13
seasons, including the Gopher's first trip to the Final Four in 1997. University
officials say they will immediately begin a search for a permanent or interim