Insufficient evidence to fire coach led to buyout

Amid renewed media coverage of the men’s basketball academic misconduct scandal, University officials reasserted they did not have enough evidence to fire former coach Clem Haskins, and buying out his contract for $1.5 million last summer was the best decision at that time.
And while officials say they now have sufficient evidence to inform Haskins the University might sue him to get back a portion of the settlement payment, they are not certain if it is enough to stand up in a courtroom, said Mark Rotenberg, University general counsel.
Although the University had information about the scandal that put Haskins under suspicion for his involvement nearly a year ago, it did not have any direct links to him.
“(The evidence) has to be able to stand up in court because the issue is whether coach Haskins can sue us for the money,” Rotenberg said.
It was only after four former student-athletes came forward last fall University officials obtained stronger evidence against Haskins. The University’s final report concluded Haskins played a central role in the academic fraud.
In March 1999, former men’s basketball tutor Jan Gangelhoff admitted to writing more than 400 papers for student-athletes, which launched the University’s nine-month, $2.2 million investigation into the scandal.
The University rushed to buy out Haskins’ contract in June to give men’s basketball enough time to prepare for a new season under new leadership, Rotenberg said.
Since then and more recently, the University has been strongly criticized for the buyout, particularly of Yudof’s claim in June that the University had no evidence against Haskins.
“I don’t think (Yudof) was misleading anybody,” Rotenberg said. The University and the public knew the information officials had on hand before making the decision, he said.

V. Paul Virtucio welcomes comments at [email protected].