U sports scandals date to 1970s

by Mike Oakes

Years of task forces, hope for administrative reform and athletics accountability have not prevented the University’s largest athletics scandal to date.
While various University committees have been formed over the years in an attempt to steer athletics programs in the right direction, little has changed in the frequency of athletics scandals.
In the men’s basketball program, several scandals have emerged in the last three decades. The football program saw its share of disruption in the 1980s as well.
Resignations and even court trials resulted from these controversial episodes.
Musselman in the 1970s
In 1975, the NCAA sent a letter to Vice President of Institutional Planning and Relations Stanley Kegler claiming the men’s athletics department was involved in more than 100 rules violations regarding cash payments or gifts to basketball players.
Bill Musselman, men’s basketball head coach, resigned from his post shortly after the allegations and began coaching the San Diego Snails, a professional team in the American Basketball Association.
“I’m leaving with a clear conscience,” Musselman said in a San Diego press conference on July 28, 1975. “The (NCAA) investigation is of the University, not a single individual, and I am no longer a member of the University of Minnesota.”
“I don’t know if the NCAA allegations had anything to do with it. His leaving may have been coincidental with the investigation,” said assistant athletics director Bob Geary in a 1975 Minnesota Daily article.
An internal investigation launched by former University President C. Peter Magrath found no evidence to support NCAA charges.
Despite that, the University’s Assembly Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, which oversees the athletics department, issued a report recommending changes in the men’s athletics department.
The report stated the University’s evaluation of its coaches should depend on “the educational mission of the University and the quality of student-athlete experience rather than win-loss records.”
But 20 years later, men’s basketball head coach Clem Haskins wasn’t held to the same scrutiny.
Many argue he coached with a win-at-all-costs mentality, and the University’s educational mission was an afterthought.
The Dutcher scandal
Jim Dutcher replaced Musselman, and spent more than 10 years as head coach of the men’s basketball program.
His tenure ended abruptly in 1986. Dutcher announced his retirement shortly after three of his players were accused of raping an 18-year-old Madison, Wisc., woman on Jan. 24 at an away game.
In a Daily article that month, Dutcher said he felt responsible for the incident.
“If you head up a program, you are ultimately responsible,” he said.
Three of Dutcher’s players — Mitch Lee, Kevin Smith and George Williams — were charged with rape, but were later acquitted on all counts.
Allegations of racial discrimination were hurled against the investigators of the three African-American players.
University President Ken Keller again formed a task force in light of the scandal that urged faculty control over athletics and sensitivity to the needs of all African-Americans.
Despite the task force’s mission, a scandal involving both the football and the men’s basketball programs began to surface soon after.
Darville in 1989
Acting coordinator of the Office of Minority and Special Student Affairs Luther Darville admitted giving large sums of money to football and men’s basketball players after an April 1988 audit showed $200,000 was missing from his office.
He was convicted on three counts of theft and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The University fired him.
In a 1989 task force survey, more than 80 percent of faculty polled strongly agreed men’s athletics controversies embarrass the University.
Once again, a committee to push for faculty involvement in athletics and a stronger coach-athletic director relationship was created in 1990. This time it was formed by University President Nils Hasselmo.
In a large part because of the Darville scandal, the men’s athletics department was put on NCAA probation in 1991.
The faculty Assembly Steering Committee further appointed another intercollegiate athletics committee which stressed that coaches point out the importance of ethical behavior to student athletes.
But that ethical behavior has been presumably overlooked in the ensuing years.
Despite the multiple policing committees, another men’s basketball scandal was born under coach Haskins.
The most recent academic misconduct scandal is among the most serious the NCAA has seen in 20 years.
University Vice President for Administration Tonya Moten Brown said that even with its programs scrutinized both internally and externally, no one can say the University’s athletic programs will be scandal-free indefinitely.
“I don’t think you can ever make guarantees.”

Mike Oakes welcomes comments at [email protected]