Haskins’ status suddenly uncertain

by Michael Dougherty

SEATTLE — For the first time since the 1991-92 season, the Gophers men’s basketball team (17-11) did not reach the 20-win mark. And for the first time since 1995 Minnesota failed to win a postseason game.
But most importantly, for the first time in Gophers coach Clem Haskins’ 13 years, there is speculation that his trademark Williams Arena stool might have a different fanny planted on it next year.
Amid player suspensions for allegations of academic fraud, the team could spend months in the headlines for an off-the-court scandal, instead of setting off on a third straight postseason romp through the nation’s basketball arenas.
Haskins said he has absolutely no concern about his job security as a result of the suspensions of Miles Tarver, Kevin Clark, Jason Stanford and Antoine Broxsie. Haskins said University President Mark Yudof assured him of his job security.
“(Yudof) said when he called me, `We know we have the best basketball coach in America. You run a clean program and we’re glad to have you here,'” Haskins said.
Rumors in Twin Cities papers the past couple of weeks have suggested that Haskins might not sign a contract extension before his current contract expires in 2002. The reports also mentioned that Haskins is currently building a new home in Kentucky.
Haskins, who has denied knowledge of any academic fraud in his program, said he agreed with the decision of Yudof and McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics, to suspend the players.
“We always do what is right at the University of Minnesota,” Haskins said. “We don’t put winning or losing ahead of what is right. I have been that way my 55 years and don’t plan on changing tomorrow.
“(The suspensions were) an agreement on both parties. We don’t want to jeopardize the University of Minnesota. Some people at this level sell their souls to win and I don’t do that — never have, never will.”
Regardless of whether Haskins remains with the Gophers, the University has been left with a black eye as a result of the alleged scandal.
The Gonzaga student section greeted the Gophers at the beginning of the game with chants of “Do your homework,” “Flunk the Gophers,” and “Cheaters never win.”
And one sarcastic Gophers fan had a sign that read “Can’t Beet Studying,” with the CBS letters capitalized to get air time on the network carrying the game. On the other side of the placard was the phrase “I did my homework.”
Instead of a national audience concentrating on a terrific comeback from a 21-point deficit and the emergence of Dusty Rychart (23 points and 17 rebounds), they saw signs and heard chants that demeaned and degraded both the program and the University.
“This will pass in due time, and the sun will come up tomorrow,” Haskins said about the scandal.
The question is whether Haskins will be watching that sunrise reflecting off a lake near his home in Minnetonka, or looking at it bouncing off the dew on the blue grass of Kentucky.