Haskins’ decision is best of two foul choices

The academic scandal surrounding the Gophers men’s basketball team has raised many questions regarding the University’s athletic department. In an attempt to clear the slate, the University decided on Friday to buy out men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ contract for $1.5 million. The contract, which left few decisions for University officials, will hurt the athletics department and ultimately the University as a whole.
Since the beginning of the basketball ordeal, the University’s integrity has taken a beating. Nationwide, people have discussed the poor academic standards and misconduct of the Gophers basketball players. In an attempt to rectify the situation, players were punished and high-level managers were dismissed. Unfortunately, even after all these measures, the University is still paying for the basketball team’s academic misconduct.
While University President Mark Yudof has stated that he neither fired Haskins nor asked him to resign, he claims Haskins left for “the good of the men’s basketball program and the University.” Yudof has also said he thinks “this is a move that is needed to restore confidence, needed to move ahead and put this unfortunate episode behind us.”
An unusual clause in Haskins’ contract requires that he is compensated for termination without just cause. This left the University with two unpleasant options. The first was to fire Haskins without just cause and be forced to pay him $1.3 million in addition to several hundred thousand dollars in benefits and face the possibility of a lawsuit for defamation of character. The second option was to buy out his contract for an unspecified amount. Haskins could have been terminated with just cause through a decision by the NCAA infractions committee, felony conviction or a substantial failure to perform the duties.
It is possible Haskins could have been terminated after an investigation by the NCAA is completed next spring. However, officials did not want to wait that long to determine Haskins’ fate. This led officials to the decision to buy out the contract before the investigation was concluded.
The athletic department receives little help from the state, and mainly supports itself with money from ticket sales and concession stands. By carrying most of the burden of the buyout, the athletic department suffers greater losses. This money could have been better spent reshaping not only the basketball team, but the entire athletic department, to ensure the University will not run into these types of problems again.
Unsure of the athletic department’s ability to fund the buyout, the University will step in with a loan at a high interest rate. The University will pay $423,000 and loan the athletic department whatever it is unable to pay of the remaining amount. Other student-athletes who are not affiliated with men’s basketball will suffer from the money loss.
It is disappointing this basketball scandal has affected and will continue to affect the University on all levels. Haskins’ contract put the University in a difficult position, leaving officials with no choice other than to pay Haskins a large amount of money. In the future, when working on contracts for new coaches, the University should pay more attention to that which it is agreeing.