Monson ready to recruit with fewer NCAA, U restrictions

Brett Angel

When Dan Monson hits the road Tuesday morning, it will mark a new beginning for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.

Not to mention a long-awaited end.

Tuesday is the first day of the 2003 NCAA basketball recruiting season. It’s also the first time in his four years at Minnesota that Monson and his coaching staff will be allowed to recruit players without restrictions imposed on the program stemming from a 1999 academic scandal.

“In some ways, it represents the beginning of Dan Monson’s career (at Minnesota),” Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. “I don’t know if people understand the difficulties he faced and still faces.”

Since investigations in March 1999 revealed former athletics tutor Jan Gangelhoff wrote 400 papers for at least 18 players over a six-year span, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team has been hamstrung by a series of recruiting regulations.

Following penalties handed out by both the University and the NCAA, Minnesota forfeited 40 percent of its recruiting days during the summer evaluation period.

When it can recruit, the men’s basketball staff is allowed just two coaches on the road at a time compared to three for other programs. The 20-day evaluation period runs from July 8-17 and again from July 22-31.

“Basically, our recruiting opportunities have been cut in half,” Monson said, pointing out his staff was essentially allowed 28 total evaluation days each year compared to 60 for other schools.

“The one thing I don’t want to do is make excuses. You still have a job to do and you have to do it under the guidelines that are set for us. But the fact is it’s been a more challenging thing to do here at Minnesota versus other schools.”

The Gophers will still be limited to a maximum of 12 players on their roster (compared to 13) and will lose one scholarship during the upcoming season. As an institution, the University will remain on probation until Oct. 1, 2006.

But as far as recruiting goes, Minnesota coaches will finally be back on a level playing field.

Monson realizes most critics and fans of his team don’t truly understand the disadvantages that come with the regulations his program has had to deal with. But being held to the same standard as everyone else, he feels, is a testament to the job his staff has done.

“That’s been our job – to make sure the whole state of Minnesota basketball was not crippled because of these sanctions,” Monson said. “In that regard, I take it as a compliment that we got through this without it being something that everybody sees each time we step on the court.”

Although the Gophers have been criticized in recent years for their inability to land many of the state’s top-tier basketball prospects, they have been able to convince Rick Rickert, Adam Boone and most recently Kris Humphries – all Minnesota natives – to commit to the program.

Jeff Hagen, a senior projected to start at center for the Gophers this season, decided to attend Minnesota three years ago despite not being offered a scholarship or invited for an official visit.

“I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Hagen said. “But I had the time of my life on my official visits (to other schools). Those visits are what really sell players.”

Beginning this year, the Gophers will be allowed to grant the standard 12 official visits to players of their choice. That number had been reduced to six since 1999.