Senator wants Boston, Dienhart to resign

Erin Ghere

A Minnesota state senator called for the resignation of McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics, and Mark Dienhart, men’s athletics director, in a Monday letter to National Collegiate Athletic Association officials.
State Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, a member of the Senate Higher Education Budget Division, also criticized University President Mark Yudof in the letter.
Larson called for action only days before Yudof is scheduled to announce the findings of an independent investigation into allegations of academic fraud in the men’s athletics program. The charges surfaced last March when a University tutor said she wrote more than 400 papers for 20 men’s basketball players between 1993 and 1998.
Both Boston and Dienhart have denied wrongdoing.
In a letter to NCAA President Cedric W. Dempsey, Larson said the self-imposed sanctions Yudof announced Oct. 26 were “completely inadequate and misguided.” The sanctions included banning the men’s basketball team from one year of postseason play. Larson said Yudof should have taken action against Boston and Dienhart as well.
Yudof has said personnel changes are possible but that he would wait until the public release of the final report before announcing any additional sanctions.
Larson called the University’s administration shameless.
“Clem Haskins was given a $1.5 million buyout package and fond farewell,” Larson wrote in his letter. “(Others) continue to collect six-figure incomes and suffer no repercussions. How these individuals (Boston and Dienhart) have the temerity to sit at the table and discipline a group of uninvolved kids and yet continue unimpeded in their careers is stunning.”
Larson was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Other state legislators had mixed reactions to Larson’s comments.
“I would want to take the opportunity to reassure Senator Larson, as well as the general public, that the self-imposed sanctions that we announced last month were not intended to represent the full range of action that we might take in response to the final investigation report,” said Tonya Moten Brown, Yudof’s chief of staff.
She said more personnel changes or restructuring could come when the final report is released to the public Friday.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she does not endorse Larson’s comments, but thinks he is on the right track.
Kahn, the East Bank area’s representative, said there have been no real consequences for people who committed academic fraud. She called the fraud a crime and said all people involved should go to jail.
“If you really want to clean up intercollegiate athletics, you should set rules across the boards and have the understanding that people who break them will go to jail,” she said.
Kahn added that the University’s self-imposed sanctions make it look like officials are trying to ward off the NCAA’s wrath. If they think the NCAA sanctions would be enough, officials shouldn’t have needed self-imposed sanctions, she added.
“(University officials) want to get as light punishments as they can get from the NCAA,” she said.
Kahn said she was most outraged when University officials bought out Haskins’ contract in late June.
Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, senator for the East Bank area, said he felt Larson’s comments were premature.
“President Yudof is handling (the fraud scandal) in an orderly fashion, and we ought to wait for the report,” he said.
Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said the process is still in the works.
“It’s difficult to comment until Mark Yudof has shared his thoughts after reviewing the report,” he said.
Although legislators can comment on the University’s actions, Yudof and the Board of Regents make the final decision, Carlson added.
Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley and chair of the House Higher Education Finance committee, agreed the comments were premature.
Kahn said she does not expect the academic fraud scandal will hurt University funding because the Legislature does not fund men’s athletics. No legislators consider the scandal as something that happened under Yudof’s watch, either, she added.
Agreeing with Pioneer Press columnist Nick Coleman, Kahn also said some of the blame should lay at former Gov. Arne Carlson’s feet.
Arne Carlson was an ardent fan of the University’s men’s basketball team — even inviting the team to Thanksgiving dinner several times.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.