Dienhart resigns amid pressure of U scandal

When Jan Gangelhoff alleged she wrote more than 400 papers for men’s basketball players in March, Mark Dienhart said no other men’s athletics were involved in the academic fraud.
When the University bought out men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ contract in June, citing growing evidence of his complicity, Dienhart stood staunchly by Haskins’ side and denied any men’s athletic officials’ participation in the scandal.
But after the Friday release of the 1,000-page report documenting academic fraud in men’s athletics, Dienhart resigned himself to his subordinates’ involvement in cheating.
“I feel fundamentally betrayed,” Dienhart said. “If this report is right, the values in that program were absolutely wrong.”
So when Dienhart was told Thursday night that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the year, he said he decided to end his nine-year tenure at the University.
Announcing his resignation Friday in Williams Arena’s posh Club Room, Dienhart said Friday that naivete was his only fault.
Former academic counselor Alonzo Newby, several men’s basketball players and — if the final report is true — former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins all lied to him when they said they weren’t involved, Dienhart said.
By not questioning his employees’ denials, University President Mark Yudof said Dienhart failed to adequately manage the men’s athletics program.
“The facts show that they had strong reason to be suspicious of the operation of the basketball-counseling program. Plenty of warning signals were sent,” Yudof said Friday. But “despite signals of irregularities, no adequate investigation was ever launched.”
But calling Dienhart and Boston “honorable men,” Yudof said no evidence showed Dienhart himself was aware of academic misconduct.
Still, the message to Dienhart was clear.
“It’s obvious I’m not the person (University President Mark Yudof) wants in this position,” Dienhart said. “I didn’t want to do this job if he didn’t want me to do this job.”
Asked Friday if he should have known about alleged academic misconduct, Dienhart simply said no.
He did his job, he said.
Dienhart said any misconduct that occurred would have stopped with his letter of disassociation to Jan Gangelhoff.
“In many ways, I have been the whistleblower,” Dienhart said. “This could have been stopped and would have been stopped with my letter of disassociation.”
But Dienhart’s interest in protecting the men’s athletics department from criticism has earned him as many supporters inside the program as critics outside the University.
Men’s coaches sent Yudof a letter in August, steadfastly supporting Dienhart.
The coaches’ support “meant the world” to him, Dienhart said Friday as he looked on at his grim-faced employees.
Before coming to the University, Dienhart worked in the athletics program and as chief public relations officer at the University of St. Thomas, where he earned a bachelor’s in philosophy and a master’s in journalism. After earning All-America honors as a football and track star in college, Dienhart was drafted to the Buffalo Bills. Later, he returned to St. Thomas as the football and track coach.
In May 1990, he came to the University — where he had earned a higher-education doctorate in 1988 — as an associate director, the third-ranking position in the men’s athletics department.
He was promoted to senior associate director, the No. 2 position, when McKinley Boston ascended to men’s athletics director a year later.
When Boston moved to his current position as vice president of student development and athletics in July 1995, Dienhart was chosen from three finalists in a six-month search.
“I’ve had sleepless nights thinking about it,” he said then. “Who wouldn’t want this job?”
Dienhart will remain at the University until Dec. 6, the day after the Gophers football team will accept a bowl game invitation.

Tammy J. Oseid welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3218.