U internal investigation clears coach J Robinson

University of Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson did not violate NCAA rules, according to a internal University investigation.

Luke Feuerherm

University of Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson did not violate NCAA rules by purchasing and selling real estate from and to former wrestlers, according to a five-month internal University investigation made public Friday. The investigation was triggered and based on a Minnesota Daily article which reported that Robinson sold houses to at least two former team members, who are now assistant coaches, and bought property from two other former wrestlers. The story raised questions on whether Robinson used real estate as a recruiting incentive. The report noted that Robinson gave loans to and made deals with wrestling staff members and soon-to-be staff members, but didnâÄôt violate rules because he didnâÄôt take into account whether they were former wrestlers. That conclusion was based on interviews with current and former wrestling administrative staff and coaches, as well as all current wrestlers. The University also reviewed property sales documents and interviewed 12 former wrestlers, but only for the transactions mentioned in the original Daily story. As a result, the inquiry confirmed the articleâÄôs facts but found little outside of the newspaperâÄôs reports. âÄúThis is not a criminal investigation by the FBI,âÄù said University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, whose office oversaw the investigation. âÄúThe evidence showed that Coach Robinson helped out wrestling staff members regardless of whether they were student-athletes and had done well in his program.âÄù The report Conducted by the UniversityâÄôs Athletic Compliance Office, the investigationâÄôs report came in at less than six pages in length. Some details in the report were difficult to review, as personally-identifiable information was redacted. Robinson said he felt the original Daily story was unfair, and the ensuing investigation was a âÄútremendous waste of time.âÄù âÄúIâÄôm glad that itâÄôs over with,âÄù Robinson said. âÄúAnd itâÄôs exactly what I said in the first story: âÄòThereâÄôs nothing to find, and youâÄôre going to slant it the way you want to slant it.âÄô And I think [the report] pretty much vindicated it.âÄù The Daily reported that in one case Robinson sold a house to former wrestler Luke Becker for the same price for which Robinson bought it. The sale took place four months after Becker graduated. The report explained that Becker could not secure financing for the house, so Robinson purchased it with $185,000 in cash. Three weeks later, Becker used a mortgage to purchase the home by warranty deed in the amount of $185,000. The transaction, like the three other noted transactions between Robinson and former wrestlers, was in the interest of âÄúkeeping qualified individuals on his staff,âÄù and was not a prearranged deal or recruiting benefit, the University report stated. But, as noted in the report, even if the four cases were violations, all are now past the four-year statute of limitations. The only âÄúallegationsâÄù that would still be punishable under NCAA rules are two issues surrounding current wrestler Sonny Yohn, one of which was not acknowledged in the report. From recruit to client The Daily reported that Marty Morgan, a former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, acted as the real estate agent for Yohn, who he helped recruit out of high school. Morgan, who left the team in 2008, helped Yohn purchase a house in early 2009. The University concluded that âÄúafter interviews with all of the parties involved, it became clear that no extra benefits were provided in the real estate relationship.âÄù Rotenberg said he did not know which questions the compliance staff asked during the interviews or the average duration of each interview. Compliance director J.T. Bruett directly supervised the investigation, but the University would not make him available for comment. Discussions as a recruit Yohn told the Daily in an interview that he discussed real estate with Robinson during the recruiting process, though he could not recall the conversationâÄôs context. The University did not acknowledge that situation in its report, but stated that âÄúit was clear that property transactions with coaching staff members were not discussed in the recruiting process.âÄù The report stated that âÄúthe wrestling coaching staff discussed the benefits of owning property near campus with parents of prospective student-athletes,âÄù but not the prospective athletes themselves. Robinson said Monday that he could not recall if he spoke with Yohn about real estate, but said that there wouldnâÄôt be a problem if he did. âÄúI donâÄôt remember if I did or if I didnâÄôt âÄî I could have,âÄù Robinson said. âÄúBut thereâÄôs nothing wrong with talking to [recruits] about real estate.âÄù Rotenberg said he does not know why a look into whether that conversation occurred was left out of the report. Speaking generally, he noted that real estate discussions in the recruiting process would raise questions. âÄúIf Coach Robinson had discussed these kinds of real estate benefits during the recruiting process? Yes, absolutely we would have a different case,âÄù he said. The NCAA response The report, signed by Gopher Athletics Director Joel Maturi, was submitted to the NCAA on May 14. Maturi was unavailable for comment. The NCAA will only respond to the UniversityâÄôs report if they have questions or deem the investigation inadequate, Rotenberg said, which he does not expect to happen. An incomplete or neglectful report can result in additional sanctions, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said, and typically universities thoroughly self-report their violations to err on the side of caution. If the transactions had been found to be impermissible, the University could have filed them as major violations, but would more likely have filed them as secondary infractions, which carry lesser penalties. Secondary infractions are inadvertent in nature and do not produce a significant competitive advantage. Regardless of how a school files their infractions, the NCAA decides which category they fit in after the fact. It is rare for a university to report an investigation to the NCAA if there are no violations, Osburn said, as was the case in this inquiry. âÄúTypically schools donâÄôt report violations until they are sure that one has happened,âÄù Osburn said. âÄúIf they do their own investigation and donâÄôt find violations, then thereâÄôs nothing. ThereâÄôs no reporting on their end.âÄù Rotenberg said that based on the results of the inquiry, the University does not plan to investigate the situation further. Robinson said the way he conducts his real estate business will not change. âÄúWhy would it?âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre not doing anything wrong.âÄù