Officials say goodbye to Dienhart with banquet

by Craig Gustafson

The day after University men’s basketball coach Dan Monson suspended center Joel Przybilla, Gophers sports boosters threw a bash in honor of former men’s athletic director Mark Dienhart.
More than 200 friends and University officials honored Dienhart at Eden Prairie’s Bearpath golf course Wednesday night, capping the evening off by presenting him with a brand-new Volvo.
Dienhart resigned as University men’s athletic director Dec. 6, a result of academic misconduct that occurred under his watch.
“It looks like the ‘Old Boys Club’ is gathering around to protect one of their own,” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. Kahn represents the University’s East Bank area.
Gophers football coach Glen Mason, baseball coach John Anderson, men’s athletic director Tom Moe, Vice President of Student Development McKinley Boston and other University staff members attended the event.
University booster Dave Mona organized the event, along with former University Vice President Tom Swain.
“Before we went ahead with this, we called (University President Mark) Yudof,” Mona said. “The last thing we wanted to do is embarrass the University.”
Yudof gave permission for the event, even though none was needed.
The Gophers boosters set up the $100-a-plate dinner to give Dienhart a proper send-off.
“We never got a chance to say goodbye,” Mona said.
Kahn said the event proves the University has not learned its lesson.
“Again and again we’ve seen universities get into trouble because of what boosters do,” she said. “This is in very poor taste to have (University staff) involved.”
The representative said Dienhart makes enough money at his new U.S. Bancorp job, in excess of his $135,000 University salary, so giving him a new Volvo is unnecessary.
Swain laughed at Kahn’s comments. “She recommended voting for 12-year-olds; that tells you where she’s coming from.”
The Volvo gift comes from a running joke between Dienhart and friends.
“He has the worst-looking, worst-running Volvo in Ramsey County,” Mona said of Dienhart’s rusted out 1985 vehicle.
State Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said boosters are a kind of crowd unto themselves.
Although he did not approve of the event, Larson said there’s not much he or Yudof could do about it.
University Vice President for Administration Tonya Moten Brown and Dienhart could not be reached for comment.
Craig Gustafson welcomes comments at [email protected].