On the heels of a jubilant NCAA tournament birth, the Gophers men’s basketball team is embroiled in allegations of an academic fraud scandal that threatens to bar four current players from competing in today’s game.
The Gophers tip off in Seattle today against Gonzaga University at 1:42 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
University President Mark Yudof will hold a press conference this morning at 9:30 a.m. in Morrill Hall to discuss the status of four current players: Kevin Clark, Miles Tarver, Antoine Broxsie and Jason Stanford. All are implicated in the cheating scandal.
A former University adviser claims she produced more than 400 pieces of course-work for at least 20 current and former men’s basketball players, according to a copyrighted report published in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press on Wednesday.
Jan Gangelhoff, former office manager in the academic counseling office, told the Pioneer Press she wrote take-home exams, research papers and other homework between 1993 and 1998. She said she did work for former players Courtney James, Russ Archambault, Kevin Loge and Darrell Whaley.
Those players confirmed to the Pioneer Press that they had work done for them in violation of the student code of conduct and NCAA regulations.
Gangelhoff claims in the report that head coach Clem Haskins not only knew of the cheating, but paid her $3,000 in cash to continue advising Broxsie. She had previously been told not to tutor Broxsie by Elayne Donahue, the former head of the counseling office.
A professor who taught Archambault said even if he was having work done for him, his academic career was already going down the tubes.
“He wasn’t doing the work at all,” said the professor, who asked not to be named. “He didn’t belong at the University; he was immature.”
McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics, said in an interview with sports-talk radio station KFAN that the status of the four players will be determined Wednesday night after talking to Gangelhoff and others involved in the scandal.
Boston, men’s athletic director Mark Dienhart, and General Counsel Mark Rotenberg met until 7:30 p.m. in Morrill Hall to discuss the situation.
“We are evaluating the issue,” Rotenberg said.
Yudof cut short a trip to Florida, returning to the Twin Cities on Wednesday night to address the first major crisis of his administration.
“I feel a great deal of sadness and worry,” Yudof said in a televised interview, upon arriving at Twin Cities International Airport. “But I’ve got a lot of respect for Clem Haskins and the program.”
Sandy Gardebring, vice president for institutional relations, said there are questions about eligibility for players who are preparing for the game in Seattle today, but those questions would have to be ironed out with an investigation. The University has been in contact with the NCAA.
“There may be an outside investigation, or we may use our own general counsel’s office, the Big Ten conference office or a combination of both,” Gardebring said.
She said one of the major issues in the investigation is how much Haskins knew of the alleged cheating.
The Pioneer Press article stated that the practice of creating fraudulent work for the players was widespread and common knowledge among the players and coaches.
Trevor Winter, former Gopher now playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, told the Pioneer Press that it was “common knowledge. It was just one of those things. It was unfortunate.”
Wally Renfro, an NCAA official, said he doesn’t know if an investigation will be conducted.
“The first step is for the school to investigate it,” Renfro said. “Typically, the institution will declare them ineligible, then ask the NCAA for reinstatement.”
An unidentified man answered the phone in Haskins’ Seattle hotel room Wednesday, stating that Haskins would not comment on the allegations.
But later at a televised press conference in Seattle, Haskins said that he was not aware of any players being barred from today’s game. He confirmed that a University investigation is underway.
“When things like that happen you have to nip it in the bud right away,” Haskins said. “I just want to turn the page and talk about basketball.”
Gov. Jesse Ventura questioned the timing of the story, coming on the eve of the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“I would like to, though, say: It just showed me another example of Pioneer Press sensational journalism, of their timing,” Ventura said in wire reports. “I think it’s despicable.”
The state senate higher education committee has scheduled a meeting for a “discussion of University of Minnesota athletics/academic issues” Friday morning.