Nearly everyone involved in the Gophers men’s basketball program’s academic fraud scandal has hired attorneys.
And everybody is investigating everyone else, creating a mad dash for witnesses and documents.
On March 19, the University named two law firms to head up their investigation: Bond, Schoeneck, and King of Overland Park, Kan., as well as Halleland, Lewis, Nilan, Sipkins and Johnson, a Minneapolis-based firm.
“(University) President (Mark) Yudof determined that it would be best to have both an expert in NCAA infractions and a local firm that was experienced, … which would be cost effective,” said Mark Rotenberg, the University’s general counsel. More than two dozen firms wanted to be part of the investigation, Rotenberg added.
The investigation is expected to last six months and cost $500,000.
The Kansas firm specializes in investigating NCAA violations and is located a half mile from the NCAA’s headquarters. Michael Glazier, who will lead the investigation, is a former NCAA compliance officer.
The firm investigated basketball recruiting improprieties at the University of Cincinnati.
Glazier directed all comments back to the University last week.
Donald Lewis, a veteran Minneapolis attorney, will assist Glazier locally. He has worked on high-profile cases for Target Stores, Dell Computers, and the Ford Motor Company and defended the University in two cases.
Lewis also worked in the U.S. Department of Justice for the Civil Rights Division during the early 1980s, the same time Rotenberg worked there.
When candidates for the University’s general counsel position were being considered in 1992, Lewis served on the committee that appointed Rotenberg.
“I’ve known Don for some years, but not from the justice department,” Rotenberg said.
The contracts between the University and the law firms have not been finalized as of Friday.
But Jim Lord, who represents Jan Gangelhoff and Jeanne Payer, said he does not believe the investigation will be fair. In fact, he called it a conspiracy.
“Bear in mind that the law firm that is doing this investigation has an ultimate end task,” Lord said at a press conference last week. “That is to minimize the sanctions from the NCAA on the University of Minnesota.”
Rotenberg said the investigation will be comprehensive regardless.
“The investigation is being conducted by outside people whose reputation for fairness and impartiality cannot fairly be questioned by Mr. Lord,” Rotenberg said.
He proposed putting all witnesses involved in the investigation under oath.
Thursday, Lord sent a letter to University President Mark Yudof asking him to encourage testimony under oath.
“By administering such an oath as I recommend, you would be able to take swift and just action, including dismissal, against individuals of the University who were not truthful regarding the entire matter,” the letter read.
Gangelhoff was the first person to levy the academic fraud allegations in a Saint Paul Pioneer Press article two-and-a-half weeks ago. Payer, Gangelhoff’s sister, followed suit shortly thereafter.
Not to be under-represented, the four current Gophers players who were suspended for the last game of the season have sought attorneys of their own. Miles Tarver and Antoine Broxsie have hired Ron Meshbesher and Phil Resnick respectively.
Jason Stanford told The Minnesota Daily he is seeking representation and Kevin Clark reportedly contacted attorney Earl Gray.
Meshbesher said the University did not follow its own policy or the policies of the NCAA when Tarver was suspended for the game.
“What if it was a band member?” asked Meshbesher, who wants to conduct his own investigation. “Would they not let him play with the band for cheating? It’s almost unheard of to expel someone on the first allegation.”
He said Tarver denies any wrong-doing. Meshbesher said he has two goals: to clear Tarver’s name and to make sure he gets the fifth year of his scholarship money to complete his degree.
Some of the attorneys will ask that their clients be paid for their attorney fees. Through the Board of Regents indemnification policy, if these people were acting within the scope of their official capacity, they can ask for reimbursement from the University.
Rotenberg said a few parties have asked to be considered under this clause, but first the general counsel’s office will review their cases and present them to Yudof, who will make the ultimate decision.