University rocked by scandals during the ’90s

by V. Paul

Sex, drugs and basketball headlined University scandals in the 1990s, and The Minnesota Daily had a front row seat.
And unlike other stories that had more University appeal and less city- or statewide interest, the Daily competed with other area newspapers to get those scandal stories first and fast.
In most recent history, the academic misconduct scandal involving the men’s basketball team coached by Clem Haskins resulted in a $2.2 million University investigation and a restructuring of University athletics.
Three men’s athletics officials, including Mark Dienhart, the department’s former director, resigned and University President Mark Yudof has indicated he will retain McKinley Boston, vice president of student development, in a lesser position.
But what remains to be seen is the final outcome of the cheating scandal, brought about by the admission in March 1999 by a former tutor of writing more than 400 papers for student-athletes.
While on two occasions Yudof has mandated self-imposed sanctions on the men’s basketball program, such as banning post-season play, the NCAA still has to impose sanctions of its own during the summer.
On another legal level, the University was subpoenaed earlier this month in a grand jury investigation of the scandal, in what University officials say will probably lead to mail fraud charges. And in turn, the University is seeking to recoup a portion of the $1.5 million contract settlement with Haskins to terminate his contract last June.
While the Haskins-saga was relatively fast-moving, the scandal concerning a sex-tape and a gymnastic coaching couple lasted more than eight years.
Katalin and Gabor Deli, who for 20 years prior had built up the women’s gymnastics program at the University, were fired in 1992 for 10 NCAA violations, including giving a team member a bicycle and instructing student-athletes to lie about how much time they trained at Deli’s private gym.
However, the Deli’s dilemma started after the women’s gymnastics team accidentally viewed a recording of the Deli’s having sex in a hotel room. The recording was at the end of a training tape.
Their firing led to a legal battle from within the University’s grievance processes to the state Court of Appeals where the University eventually won the case.
Outside of the sporting arena, the University paid out its largest settlement ever — $32 million — in 1998 to the Justice Department for abuses in the Medical School.
The federal government sued the University in 1996 for mishandling National Institutes of Health grants and for profiting from illegal sales of a transplant drug, anti-lymphocyte globulin, which had not received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
Though the settlement meant there was no admission of wrong-doing, the investigation leading up to the settlement claimed a number of University officials’ careers, including Dr. John Najarian, former chief of surgery, Robert Anderson, former health sciences vice president, and Dr. David Brown, former Medical School dean.
This case also led the NIH to rate the University as an “exceptional” institution until 1999, meaning the NIH had more control of University research receiving NIH grants.
In the past ten years, the Daily covered a number of smaller campus controversies, including sanctions against wrestling coach J. Robinson for NCAA violations in 1990, the ousting of University Police Chief Gary Wilson in 1992 and the resignation of biomedical head Dennis Polla for funds mismanagement in 1999.

V. Paul Virtucio welcomes comments at [email protected]