When University President Mark Yudof meets privately with the Board of Regents this morning it is expected he will tell them of his plans to buy out Coach Clem Haskins’ contract.
What’s the hurry?
The University’s and NCAA’s investigations into the men’s basketball scandal are not expected to be completed until this fall and next spring, respectively. It doesn’t make sense for Yudof to make a decision on Haskins’ fate now?
Any action on Haskins’ contract at this point would be based too much on the investigations done by the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune. Although the newspapers’ evidence of wrongdoing by Haskins and the program seems overwhelming, Yudof must do what’s right for the program and the school — not what is expected by the media.
Haskins has maintained his innocence all along and has said more than once that he is a fighter and wants to continue coaching the Gophers. Assuming all the allegations facing Haskins and the men’s basketball program are true, Yudof’s best option for cleaning up the program and avoiding some NCAA penalties would not automatically be to get rid of the coach.
Successful college coaches, such as Jerry Tarkanian and Jim Boeheim, rebounded quite well from serious NCAA penalties inflicted upon their respective basketball programs. Tarkanian’s program at UNLV was found guilty of 38 violations, which included several forms of academic fraud, in 1977, but “the Shark” soon enjoyed a decade of success that included a national title while remaining at the school through the early 1990s.
Boeheim and Syracuse administrators, tagged with about 20 NCAA violations in 1992, saw their basketball program get banned from the 1993 NCAA Tournament and had several scholarships taken away. However, Boeheim had little trouble landing top recruits, like NBA forward John Wallace, the next year and in four years guided his team to the national championship game against Kentucky and garnered many coach of the year honors.
Why not give Clem the same opportunity — err obligation — to clean up his mess? It is “his” mess to clean, and he’s already made a great career of cleaning up Gophers messes. He was hired in 1986 to clean up the mess left by Coach Jim Dutcher after the pressured coach resigned amid rape charges brought against several players.
Most would agree he cleans a good mess: Haskins quickly guided the Gophers to the Sweet Sixteen in his third year and to the Elite Eight in his fourth year.
Although Haskins’ on-court success allegedly came with a not-so-Mr. Clean shine, he has done quite well to attract top recruits and put the Gophers basketball program on the map. And if the ways to on-court success for other top college basketball programs’ are any indication, Haskins will continue to win, if given the second chance at Minnesota.
Take the Cincinnati Bearcats, coached by Bob Huggins for the last decade. Here’s a program that has not yet seen a college graduate play for Huggins. And the Bearcats have continuously been one of the nation’s most successful programs. For Huggins and many other coaches nationwide academic integrity does not mean wins or a successful basketball program.
Of course academic integrity should not be taken lightly by Yudof and the University. But letting Haskins go is not the best answer to improving or upholding the school’s commendable academic integrity.
Buying out Haskins’ contract simply lets him off easy and leaves all the messy crumbs for the University to pick up.
If Yudof decides the University should buy out Clem’s contract he is telling Clem, “This will hurt us more than it will hurt you.” It should be the other way around for the University and Haskins.
Any punishment — which is inevitable from the University and NCAA — to the basketball program is a punishment to the school, as well. The program will likely face a couple years probation anyway, thus Yudof should make it Haskins’ responsibility to clean up the program’s academic standards and carry the team to continued on-court success.
Haskins is here, experienced and willing to keep fighting through the investigation. The Gophers basketball program will be reeling from NCAA sanctions regardless of whether Haskins is let go; Yudof should not throw in the towel before the real opponents show up.