In the Spotlight

News & Features
Monson's Message: Go to Class
By Michael Khoo
July 26, 1999
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

The new Gophers basketball coach says he'll make academic achievement a top priority. Gonzaga University head coach Dan Monson signed a seven-year contract with the University of Minnesota over the weekend. University officials say Monson's committment to good grades was a key factor in their decision to hire him.

For More Information
See the collection of MPR stories on the University of Minnesota cheating scandal.

Hear July 26th's Midday programwith University of Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Dienhart.
GONZAGA UNIVERSITY'S DAN MONSON last made Twin Cities' headlines when his team defeated the Gophers in round one of the NCAA tournament last March. It would be the last game Clem Haskins would coach for Minnesota, coming one day after allegations of academic fraud first rocked the university and sidelined four Minnesota players. Now, Monson is back; this time to lead the program in the wake of Haskins' buyout last month. Monson says he's not concerned about the ongoing investigation into the men's basketball program. The investigation is expected to conclude in the fall and the university will likely appear before the NCAA infractions committee next spring.
Monson: I know that, with this probation, the next coach here has to do it the right way, has to academically... Things have to be a priority. And off the court, things have to be done the right way. And that's what I feel like, as a coach, I stand for, and so I think that in that regard, I know I'm coming into a place that expects me to run my program the only way I know how.
Monson's contract includes a base salary of $150,000 a year with a supplemental package of $340,000 per year. He could also receive outside income worth hundreds of thousands more from shoe contracts and basketball camps. And in a change from Haskins' contract, Monson is eligible for bonuses if his athletes show strong academic performance.

University President Mark Yudof says he's pleased with the 37-year-old Monson's youth and exuberance.
Yudof: Coach Monson is outstanding, and he's the right person to grow the basketball program and take us where we want to go and take us there in - what I'll call - the right way. He's exciting; he's dynamic. He stands for all the right values. I've talked to this man. And he stands for them not only on the court, which is important, but what is equally or more important, he stands for them in the classroom and in the community.
The decision to offer the job to Monson - and his decision to accept - came after an intensive search to replace Haskins. The university expressed interest in recruiting several high-profile coaches and just last week seemed on the verge of hiring University of Virginia athletic director Terry Holland. That deal eventually fell through. But U of M athletic director Mark Dienhart says hiring Monson was not settling for second-best.
Dienhart: What we do is to go out and to try to find the best fit and try to pay them what the marketplace would dictate and what their credentials would dictate. And I think we have a coach here, with whom we have a signed contract right now, who is worth every penny of what he is being paid. And I'm awfully glad he's here. And to me, he's not a second choice of any kind.
Dienhart says he identified Monson early in the recruitment process but that Monson was out of the country for much of the summer. Monson was in Europe as an assistant coach to the gold-medal winning men's team in the World University Games.