Coaches, administrators clash over Schemmel

Ben Goessling and

The search for an athletics director to lead the combined men’s and women’s departments produced its first candidate last week.

Jeff Schemmel, currently the senior associate athletics director for the men’s department, acknowledged that he applied for the position, but declined to comment on whether or not he will receive an interview.

Outgoing men’s athletics director Tom Moe said last week he would urge the athletics director search committee to consider Schemmel. Women’s track and field head coach Gary Wilson told the Star Tribune on June 9 there is strong support for Schemmel in the women’s athletics department.

However, outgoing women’s athletics director Chris Voelz said Schemmel carries little support among women’s athletics financial donors because of his checkered past.

“He’s been a part of scandal, hostility and fiscal mismanagement,” Voelz said. “The search begs for a fresh start, and many of our supporters feel the same way.”

Schemmel was scheduled to leave his post in April 2001 due to his involvement in the men’s basketball academic fraud scandal, but was retained by University President Mark Yudof after Moe lobbied on Schemmel’s behalf.

Schemmel served as the University’s compliance coordinator from 1991-95, and was scheduled to leave because he did not report ongoing NCAA violations by the men’s basketball program.

The University did not dismiss Schemmel when news of the scandal broke in 1999, however, because it needed Schemmel to coordinate its hosting the 2000 NCAA men’s basketball Midwest Regional and 2001 Final Four.

Mary Jo Kane, athletics director search committee chairwoman, said there is strong outside interest in the position and hopes to have a director in place to help with the merger, which is scheduled to begin July 1.

However, Dutch Baughman, executive director of the Division 1-A Athletics Directors Association, said he suspects the University could attract candidates who have served primarily as assistant directors or directors at lower-level institutions.

Baughman said Yudof’s departure could negatively affect the University’s ability to draw top candidates, especially since the women’s basketball program is facing potential NCAA sanctions.

“There are a lot of questions about the sanctions in that situation only the president could respond to,” Baughman said.

The potential lack of major candidates disturbs Voelz, who said she thinks the University needs someone with major-level athletics director experience.

“It’s one thing to be an associate or an assistant, but being a head director is an entirely different coat to put on,” she said. “It’s not that there aren’t talented people (who are associates or assistants), but this is a particularly challenging situation.”

Voelz will serve as an athletics advisor to the president next year.

Yudof is scheduled to leave the University in early August, meaning he will have the final say on the new athletics director after consulting with Robert Bruininks, interim president, and Tonya Moten Brown, executive vice president.

The University hired Heidrick and Struggles, a Chicago-based search firm, to help identify potential candidates and said it hopes to recommend two to three finalists to Yudof in the next two weeks.

The University is offering $300,000 as yearly compensation for the job, an amount Baughman said is competitive.

Given that the University committed several major NCAA violations in the last three years, Kane said the committee is looking for someone who will uphold the integrity of the athletics department.

“We must have someone who has the right value set,” she said. “We need someone who, at the end of the day, won’t be afraid to make the tough decisions and do what is right.”

Voelz said she feels the only way to attain the integrity Kane requires is to look exclusively at outside candidates.

Voelz added the men’s department has been “leaking bad things about the women’s department for years,” and said she thinks the University should not consider anyone who has worked with the men’s department.

“The men’s department needs to create a new structure based on values and fiscal responsibility,” she said. “We’ve been through administrative decisions that haven’t fostered a great deal of trust and respect, and there’s no time like the present to begin change.”

Kane, who directs the Tucker Center for Women and Girls in Sport, said the University needs someone who will advocate women’s athletics because he or she wants to, not because he or she is forced to do so.

But Kane said she is confident the departments will be able to work together.

“I don’t want to start from the assumption there’s going to be friction (between the men’s and women’s departments),” she said. “Both sides are looking forward to working with a director who doesn’t view athletics as men versus women.”