Basketball scandal is about responsibility

Wednesday morning, while the Gophers men’s basketball team prepared for its first round game in the NCAA tournament, charges of academic misconduct rocked the program. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Jan Gangelhoff, former office manager of the academic counseling office, claims she has done course work for more than 20 Gophers players in recent years. These are serious accusations which, if true, demand accountability. At the very least, players who have cheated must face the appropriate consequences. Team, University and NCAA rules must be enforced.
Although Haskins’ tenure as head coach has transformed the Gophers into a top Big Ten team, it has been plagued with off- court problems. Last year, guard Russ Archambault was dismissed for violating a team rule. After the 1997 Final Four, starting forward Courtney James left the University under a cloud of legal problems and with a grade point average woefully under the NCAA minimum. It is ironic that James was one of the players for whom Gangelhoff claims to have written papers; Coach Haskins did not get much for the $3,000 he supposedly gave her.
The coaching staff of the Gophers is going to be investigated to determine what roles they may have played in the scandal. If they participated in the alleged cheating, or even had knowledge of it and turned a blind eye, the coaches should resign. If not, University administration should compel them to leave.
Even if they did not know, Clem Haskins and his coaching staff should have taken responsibility for the behavior of their players. It is definitely possible Coach Haskins and his staff had no knowledge of the cheating Gangelhoff claims occurred. This would not excuse the fact that it took place on their watch.
To most students, cheating is a crystal-clear issue. Having another person write one’s papers is cheating. Yet it is impossible to know what Haskins discussed with his players regarding their academic performance. Before now, he had a reputation as being an above-the-board man, one who challenged his players to excel both on the court and in the classroom. If Gangelhoff’s accusations are true, it appears a sizeable number of his players put the court ahead of the classroom.
While at times of adversity the tendency may be to close ranks and defend at all costs, for the good of the program, the truth needs to come out. If proven, these charges are embarrassing for the entire University community and that entire community must demand justice. The administration’s commitment to investigating the allegations, no matter where they lead, and the suspension of four players before yesterday’s game demonstrates a desire for integrity. As with many scandals, the evidence of the cover-up may prove to be more damning then the violations themselves.
There needs to be greater policing of student athletes. Whether or not such monitoring is done by the head coach or his assistants, players cannot be allowed to operate above the rules. Those who can be shown to have participated in cheating, or knew of it and failed to act, should exit the program they have disgraced. If the men’s basketball program is to survive this scandal, as we suspect it will, things are going to have to change.