Eleven years ago…

Aaron Kirscht

Eleven years ago, the Gophers men’s basketball program was reeling. Three players had been arrested and charged with raping a woman while on the road in Wisconsin, which led to Coach Jim Dutcher’s resignation.
The incident not only tarnished the reputation of the program, but also of athletes and the University in general.
Enter Clem Haskins. He was hired as Gophers coach on April 2, 1986. Soon the program was on the road back to respectability, and Haskins was carving out a sizeable niche in the Minnesota record books.
But it’s likely Haskins will be remembered best for what his team accomplished last season. The Gophers won their first Big Ten championship since 1982, were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and advanced to the Final Four for the first time in the program’s history before losing to defending champion Kentucky in the national semifinal. Gophers guard Bobby Jackson was named Big Ten Player of the Year and earned a spot on the NCAA tournament first team with his heroics, and Haskins received a truckload of national coach of the year awards.
The Gophers’ success has made a seat in Williams Arena the hottest ticket in town, and Haskins one of the state’s most recognizable figures. But Haskins has developed a sort of love-hate relationship with his fans, who revile him for his sometimes-confusing substitution patterns and strictly controlled offense.
But the expectations for a winning team are met more often than not, and those efforts are rewarded by the fans, all of which has made Williams one of college basketball’s more challenging venues — and the Gophers one of the nation’s most respected programs.
The ugly events that took place in 1986 are long forgotten — for now, that is. Recent allegations of wrongdoing by several of Haskins’ current players threaten to undermine a decade’s worth of rebuilding.
How the program reacts to and recovers from those struggles will determine the future course of the program, just as they did when Haskins came on board.
But this isn’t the first time the Gophers have had to battle through adversity, and it probably won’t be the last. If Haskins’ past performance is any indicator, the Gophers are in good hands.