Minnesota hoops are talk of the Big Ten

by David La

CHICAGO — The Minnesota men’s basketball team became a topic of interest for the press at the Big Ten basketball media day on Sunday.
Big Ten Commissioner James Delany answered several questions about the Gophers’ near future. More specifically, the ramifications of the team’s self-imposed ban from NCAA and National Invitation Tournament play.
Delany said he is not aware yet as to the results of the Gophers internal investigation into alleged academic fraud, but said he is supportive that institutions on the whole are taking the initiative to correct the situation.
“What I think I’ve described is one: An environment where a University president is not playing defense lawyer, their trying to play good citizen with the NCAA. Two: Where pre-emptive action is a sign of healing. Three: You can’t penalize the chemistry department for problems that incur in an intercollegiate sports department. You can’t walk away from culpability, that is not where we are.”
Delany said he wants to see universities continue their cooperation, rather than “putting up barricades, hiring lawyers, and defending to the Nth degree.”
But Delany added that he is unsure what to make of the decision by Minnesota’s administration to ban the team from NCAA play.
“I don’t know whether the actions are sufficient,” Delany said. “The only way I, or anyone else can judge that is by knowing what’s in the report. I have no idea what the facts in that report are.”
Another question posed to Delany dealt with whether the Gophers belong playing in the Big Ten tournament. The winner of the tournament receives an automatic invitation to play at the national level.
“On the one hand, somebody could say, ‘Why should (Minnesota) be in the Big Ten tournament since they couldn’t represent us in the NCAA tournament? Therefore, they should have the ability to beat somebody who is eligible.’
“The other side of that is every Division-I conference in the country makes a choice each year on a form how they will determine who goes to the NCAA tournament as the automatic qualifier. Until three seasons ago, we said the best record in the regular season.
“Let’s assume tomorrow we decide to do away with the tournament, and let’s assume Minnesota imposed this penalty of no postseason play. Would we then they’re ineligible for the regular season? I don’t think we would.”
Minnesota president Mark Yudof said additional University and NCAA sanctions might follow in the months to come. A final report on the allegations will be released publicly in mid-November.

David La Vaque covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected].