Fallout might reach Clem’s staff

In the wake of men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ resignation Friday, the status of other men’s athletics officials at the University appears to be in jeopardy.
University President Mark Yudof said during a news conference Friday that Haskins’ departure signals the beginning of what might be more sweeping changes in men’s athletics.
Pending the conclusion of the University’s investigation, men’s athletic department employees — from the Office of Student Development and Athletics all the way down to assistant men’s basketball coaches — could suffer the same fate as Haskins and Alonzo Newby. Newby, a former academic counselor, was fired June 18 for refusing to cooperate with investigators.
Many sanctions and other management changes might not come until this fall, following the report of the investigation into allegations of academic fraud which is due Sept. 1. But some changes could come as early as Thursday, when findings from the sexual misconduct investigation are due.
However, some witnesses involved in the sexual assault cases have not yet been interviewed by University investigators. University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said in a published report on Saturday that the deadline could be extended if investigators need the extra time.
Men’s Athletic Director Mark Dienhart said he has opened discussions with McKinley Boston, vice president for student development and athletics, to hire a new or interim head coach for the men’s basketball program. Dienhart said the appointment might not happen for several weeks, after the July 8 start of the summer recruiting season.
If a new coach is hired from outside the University, Dienhart said it is possible that existing assistant basketball coaches could lose their jobs.
“We’ve made the first key change in leadership,” Yudof said Friday. “We’ve got to get this management thing under control in terms of integrity, in terms of graduation rates and a lot of other things.”
The University will pay Clem Haskins $1.5 million to leave the University, ending the 13-year tenure of the only coach ever to bring the Gophers to the Final Four.
Under the agreement, announced Friday by Yudof, the men’s basketball head coach will step down June 30.
Because investigators have not yet found just cause for terminating Haskins contract, Yudof — with the support of the Board of Regents — agreed to honor the terms of Haskins’s contract stipulating the large sum.
“This agreement was reached because both parties — the University and Coach Haskins — have agreed that for the good of the men’s basketball program and the University, it is time for a new head basketball coach,” according to the official University public statement released Friday.
The announcement came Friday afternoon following an emergency, closed-door meeting of the Board of Regents. Representatives from more than 20 media organizations packed Morrill Hall to wait for the decision.
Negotiations began three weeks ago, after an interim report by University investigators showed numerous substantiated findings of academic fraud, Yudof said.
A key term of the resignation agreement requires Haskins to cooperate fully with investigators from the University, the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference.
In a prepared statement, Haskins wrote that he regrets having to leave the University. “I love my team; I will miss them greatly. Rest assured that I will always be cheering for the Golden Gophers!”
Haskins was five wins short of becoming the all-time winningest coach in University history.

Terms of the Agreement
Haskins signed the buyout agreement Friday morning. The deal was drafted by Rotenberg and Haskins’ attorney Ron Zamansky.
According to the agreement, the University has agreed to pay the former coach $1.5 million because of a rare clause in his contract requiring the compensation for termination without just cause.
The investigators did not find evidence to terminate Haskins with just cause before Friday.
Just cause can be found in nine ways, one of which is a decision by the NCAA infractions committee. Also included are a felony conviction and a “substantial failure to perform the (coaching) duties … due to the gross negligence or willful misconduct of Haskins,” according to the former coach’s contract.
The men’s athletics department will fund the buyout of Haskins’ contract, scheduled to end June 30, 2002, Yudof said.
“We aren’t anticipating making any changes in terms of the documents,” Rotenberg said. “The payment will go out probably today. We consider this a done deal.”
Upon his departure, Haskins will retain his retirement funds, as well four season tickets to men’s basketball games and NCAA tournaments for at least three years, according to the agreement.
Officials were unsure if the department would be able to fund the buyout of Haskins’ contract. If they cannot, Yudof said the University would lend the department money at a high interest rate.
Of the $1.5 million buyout to be paid to Haskins today, only the $423,000 deferred compensation portion will be paid by the University. The remaining $1.1 million will be paid for out of the men’s athletics department accounts, if there is enough money.
The men’s athletics department receives minimal state contribution, drawing its funds from sports-related income, such as ticket sales and concession stands, said Yudof. University officials do not expect the men’s athletics department to be able to make the payment immediately.
“My judgment is that they probably don’t have that kind of cash,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer.
Potentially in debt with a basketball program that is temporarily without a head coach, the men’s athletics department is also facing systemic changes in the way it recruits and plays basketball players.

Mixed reactions
Yudof prepared for the regents meeting with a ginger ale, but ended it by handing the men’s athletics department a $1.5 million tab in what he called a “management decision.”
“It’s a sad day,” Yudof said. “I think we’re doing the right thing. I don’t think there’s any way we could convince the public that our house is in order under the same management.”
The problems relating to the academic fraud are systemic, Yudof said, and not just at the University. University presidents around the country need to look for other systems that could contain these problems, Yudof said.
These measures might include making freshman players ineligible to play and encouraging the NBA and NFL to form minor-league teams.
Citing an article that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Friday, Yudof said he supports a plan to make freshman basketball players ineligible that is currently being considered by the NCAA.
“We face a national crisis in terms of graduation rates,” Yudof said. “I specifically … fully endorse the idea of freshmen on the men’s basketball team being ineligible to play, allowing them to plant their feet on the ground.”
According to the article, a freshman ban would allow student-players to concentrate on their academics before getting wrapped up in college ball excitement.
Gophers basketball players were not excited about the announcement of Haskins’ termination. Eight players and assistant coach Charles Cunningham met with Yudof and the regents after Friday’s meeting.
In a press conference of their own, the team members said they wanted to continue to play together but were let down by the University’s handling of Haskins and the various investigations into the basketball program.
“The president could have done more to tell the truth,” Gophers center Joel Przybilla said. “We felt like we’ve kinda been lied to … not told the straight facts.”
What drew Przybilla to the University was the chance to play under Haskins and learn from him, Przybilla said.
“These past few weeks leading up to this have been tough,” Przybilla said. “Today it just broke my heart. I love that guy to death.”
Jim Lord, the attorney representing several key witnesses in the University investigation including Jan Gangelhoff and Elayne Donahue, former employees of the academic counseling unit, offered harsh criticism of the agreement reached Friday.
“I think (the contract) is pretty outrageous,” Lord said. “The University stuffed (Haskins’) pockets so full of money, he has to waddle out of the University.”
After receiving a letter Thursday drafted by Lord and another local contract lawyer urging the University to avoid the $1.5 million buyout, Yudof said in a published report:
“We don’t need third-rate lawyering here. (Lord) not only doesn’t have the facts, but the law is beyond his grasp. His letter is an ‘F’ paper.”
Lord characterized Yudof’s scathing critique as “a low score.”
“I felt bad about the president’s reaction,” he said. “I probably caught him at a bad time; it was too late to challenge the contract.”
University officials said their respect for Haskins and his success with the program made this move an unwelcome one.
“This is a difficult day for most Minnesotans,” Boston said.