Basketball program must die

To: The NCAA Infractions Committee
From: Josh Linehan, Sports Editor, The Minnesota Daily
Re: Another nail in the coffin
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll get right down to it.
Give the Minnesota men’s basketball program the death penalty.
Today, not tomorrow. I don’t care how, just get this over with.
They’re dirty. They’ve been dirty. President Yudof would argue his house has been cleaned, but it’s becoming painfully obvious there are termites in the walls.
It’s just not getting any better. And the current team isn’t doing anything to help their own image.
Gopher guard Mitch Ohnstad was reportedly arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana on Aug. 20 in his hometown of Faribault. According to police reports, Ohnstad had full beers in the car with him as well as a bag of marijuana and a pipe.
It’s hard to empathize with him. He was doing 23 miles over the posted limit. And this wasn’t his first offense. Ohnstad was convicted of drunken driving in March of 1999.
So much for cleaning up the program’s image. But you can’t blame just Ohnstad, either.
Last year, hours after a home loss to Wisconsin, Minnesota forward John Blair Bickerstaff was ticketed for underage and public consumption at the corner of 13th Avenue and Fourth Street in Dinkytown. Shortly thereafter, Bickerstaff was injured and lost for the season.
While these athletes certainly didn’t deserve some of the punishment they received after the scandal, they haven’t done anything to make things better.
“It hurts more knowing you had nothing to do with it,” Bickerstaff said after the team was banned from postseason play last year.
It’s going to hurt worse. And Yudof, Tonya Moten-Brown, Tom Moe and all the rest are well aware.
The University has done everything short of killing the program themselves. And though they deflect all queries regarding the death penalty, I think they know it’s a possibility.
If the compounding of these situations doesn’t warrant shutting down a program entirely, what will? There was wholesale, integrated cheating going on across numerous departments. Bobby Jackson had probably already cheated before he ever entered Williams Arena.
And now, while the jury is still out about further sanctions, Minnesota hoopsters can’t stay out of the backs of police cruisers.
And it’s not just a basketball problem. Three Gophers football players have been arrested for various offenses in the last five weeks.
Make an example out of the basketball program. You heard me, shut them down and hope all other schools get the message. Then the sickening argument about “All other schools cheat, Minnesota just got caught,” can really get started.
Yes, other schools do cheat. Yes, most don’t get caught. But you play games by the rules. Minnesota got caught, and the players and administration have done nothing but make a bigger mess since then. It’s time to start over.
And don’t stop there. After the lights are dimmed at Williams, expunge the Final Four team from the records. Make Minnesota pay back all dirty money earned by those teams. Wipe Clem Haskins’ name completely off the books.
It’s time for you all to put up or shut up. You talk a lot about what’s good for student athletes and what’s good for the college game.
Yudof’s sanctions so far smell like a smokescreen, the actions of someone who knows you can hand down much worse. Ask yourselves why.
Yes, the idea of a winter without a sold-out crowd rocking the Barn for a Big Ten game is saddening, especially for a sports writer.
But allowing this season to continue would be the biggest farce of all. Put this program out of its misery.
That way, hopefully Minnesota can one day send out a team no one associates with Clem or Gangelhoff or Newby or any of the other familiar names from this sordid soap opera.
It’s damn hard to shoot a basketball with a monkey on your back. It’s impossible to do in handcuffs.

Josh Linehan is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected].