Big Ten strikes awards, records from 1993-98 Gophers basketball seasons

Todd Milbourn

Another ruling, and another banner comes down from the rafters of Williams Arena.
One month after the NCAA stripped the Gopher men’s basketball team of their 1997 Final Four appearance, the Big Ten has stricken the team’s 1997 Big Ten basketball conference championship from the record books, University and conference officials announced Tuesday.
The ruling, issued by the conference’s Compliance and Reinstatement Subcommittee, vacates team and individual records set between 1993 and 1998, including former coach Clem Haskins’ 1997 Coach of the Year award and former guard Bobby Jackson’s Most Valuable Player honor that season.
University officials said they expected the decision and will not appeal the ruling.
“We believe these steps are appropriate,” said Mark Rotenberg, University general counsel. “This is not a surprise at all.”
Big Ten officials said the Gophers’ basketball team gained an unfair competitive advantage by using ineligible players between 1993 and 1998.
In March 1999, a former tutor said she wrote more than 400 papers for players to help ensure their eligibility, sparking investigations by the University, the NCAA and the federal government.
The Big Ten subcommittee based its decision on the NCAA report issued Oct. 24 that confirmed the use of ineligible athletes.
The NCAA put the team on four years probation, limited recruiting and voided the 1997 Final Four run.
In recent years, the Big Ten has stricken conference games on several occasions; however, overturning a conference championship in any sport had been unprecedented, said Jennifer Heppel, Big Ten assistant commissioner for compliance and enforcement.
Now, with the NCAA and Big Ten sanctions set, University officials said the basketball program can now concentrate on rebuilding.
“This is a step toward closure,” Rotenberg said. “Coach Monson and his team can now proceed to win games without worrying about sanctions.”