Haskins contract buyout possible

by V. Paul

Smack in the middle of final-exam exertion and end-of-quarter ecstasy, the Gophers men’s basketball team faced the possibility of losing its head coach.
University President Mark Yudof said Wednesday he had directed University counsel to explore ending men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ contract, which runs until 2002.
University athletics officials, however, refused to speculate about Haskins’ job, repeatedly affirming that Haskins’ status has not changed. The negotiations need to be completed before officials start looking for a replacement, said Mark Dienhart, men’s athletics director.
“Unless there’s some change to coach Haskins’ status, he’s still our head coach,” Dienhart said. “Somebody would have to no longer be a member of the coaching staff for me to go ahead and try to replace them.”
Being replaced is the farthest from Haskins’ intentions, as well. He is still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery and expects to undergo more than six weeks of rehabilitation, said Ronald Zamansky, Haskins’ attorney.
Haskins maintained his innocence in a statement released Friday, in which he said, “My statement was accurate then and is accurate now.”
“The coach’s desire is to continue to coach,” Zamansky said. “He is working really hard to rehabilitate and he intends to coach at the University of Minnesota. Our focus has been on his health and major surgery.”
Zamansky would not comment Monday on what he calls the “ongoing dialogue about the basketball program” between him and University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg. Haskins is looking beyond that, preparing for practices for a European trip the basketball team will take later this summer, he said.
“He’s excited about the team and he’s excited about representing the University of Minnesota and he’s continuing to work hard to do that,” Zamansky said.
Ending Haskins’ contract could cost the University at least $423,000 in deferred compensation if it is done with just cause, according to Haskins’ contract with the University. The total could reach $2.5 million after three years if his salary and other University-related income is included, according to published reports.
State funds, money earned from students’ tuition and any restricted funding source would not be used to pay Haskins if his contract is ended early, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer.
The University has money set aside for Haskins’ deferred compensation, Pfutzenreuter said. Any amount beyond that could come from a central reserves account and another funding source budgeted for unforeseen circumstances that the athletics department would repay, possibly with interest, he said.
“It’s just a question if (the men’s athletics department) can pay it all at once or if the University would loan them the money and they would pay it back over time,” said Pfutzenreuter. “Ultimately, the president is committed to having athletics pay for it.”