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Cheating Scandal Leads to Ousters at University of Minnesota
By William Wilcoxen
November 19, 1999
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Results of an eight-month investigation released by the University of Minnesota confirm widespread academic fraud and other rule violations in the men's basketball program. U of M President Mark Yudof announced top administrators in men's athletics are leaving the University as a result of the probe.

University of Minnesota Board of Regents chair Patricia Spence, President Mark Yudof, and Yudof's chief of staff, Tony Moten Brown answer questions at a news conference.

You can hear the news conference, reaction, and read more background on the University of Minnesota cheating scandal on MPR Online's special section.
Investigators hired by the university found systematic, widespread academic misconduct in men's basketball from 1993 through last year. They conclude Clem Haskins, who coached the basketball team during that time, knew academic counseling staff were preparing the course work turned in by at least 18 players. Their report says Haskins also broke rules by making cash payments to players and by telling players to mislead attorneys looking into academic fraud. The report also cites an institutional failure to control the basketball program, particularly a failure to separate coach Haskins from academic support staff. Yudof says that accounts for the duration of the cheating.
Yudof: Athletic and central administrators failed to adequately manage the basketball program. It became an isolated fiefdom allowed to operate virtually unchecked. While the corruption was narrowly centered in men's basketball, the deference to the wishes of coach Haskins extended to the high ranks of the University's administration. Because of this loss of control, the fraud continued unchecked for years.
Haskins has insisted he was unaware of any cheating. The university bought out the remainder of his contract this summer in a $1.5 million settlement. A woman who answered the phone at Haskins' home in Kentucky said the former coach would have no comment on the university's findings.

Yudof says he accepted the resignations of McKinley Boston, the vice-president of student development and athletics, and Mark Dienhart, the men's athletic director, after informing them that their contracts would not be renewed.
Yudof: While nothing in the report, nothing, indicates that either Doctor Boston or Doctor Dienhart knew of the cheating, the facts show that they had strong reason to be suspicious of the operation of the basketball counseling program. Plenty of warning signs were sent. Despite signals of their irregularities, no adequate investigation was ever launched during this period.
Dienhart says he acted on the limited information he had about rule violations in basketball but says he was lied to and betrayed by people around and within the program. He says he hopes no such scandal occurs again at the university.
Dienhart: There are any number of safeguards you can put in place that will help. Ultimately, if somebody wants to lie, if somebody wants to cheat, if somebody wants to deceive somebody else, they can get away with it.
Effective December 1, U of M athletics programs will report to Tonya Moten Brown, Yudof's chief of staff whose job will be converted into a vice-presidency for administration. The academic counseling department for student athletes will report to the university provost and the athletic compliance officer to the university's head attorney.

Yudof says the university is prepared to return expense payments and prize money it received from the NCAA in 1997, when the Gopher basketball team qualified for the national semi-finals. Investigators determined that in that season, as well as the two preceding and following years, the U of M used players whose academic cheating should have made them ineligible for the team. Patricia Spence, who chairs the board of regents, says the NCAA reimbursement, the $1.5 million cost of the investigation, and the cost of Haskins' contract buyout will be paid by the athletic department.
Spence: We want all citizens to understand that the entire cost associated with this investigation will be borne by the men's athletics department not by tax dollars.
Of Minnesota's 11 men's sports teams, only basketball, football, and hockey generate significant profits. Money made by those teams already subsidizes other men's sports, women's sports, and athletic building projects. The Gopher basketball team made more than $6 million last year and is the most profitable program in the Big Ten conference. The football team, conversely, was the Big Ten's least profitable. But that shows signs of changing. Steady football improvement under coach Glen Mason has produced a top-20 national ranking and the Gophers expect to play in their first bowl game in seven years this winter.

Mason and other Gohper coaches unsuccessfully urged Yudof to keep Dienhart as men's athletic director. Other universities are reportedly wooing Mason and -with Dienhart resigning, there is speculation Mason may also leave Minnesota just as football success becomes financially critical to the athletic department. Mason is in Iowa to coach the Gophers' final regular season game tomorrow and was not available for comment. Dienhart says he has tried to discourage mason from leaving.
Dienhart: I told Glen that it's my hope that I'll be watching him coach 10 years down the road here at the University of Minnesota. Glen Mason in my judgment ought to be a treasure of this state based upon what he's done and I will do anything I possibly can to make sure that he stays at Minnesota.
Next week the U of M will forward its report to the NCAA enforcement staff, which has the option of re-opening the investigation. The enforcement staff will eventually send a case summary to the NCAA's committee on infractions, which will decide next year if more sanctions should be leveled against the university.