Sports Illustrated columnist ridicules Yudof’s sanctions

by Josh Linehan

As the release of the full report into men’s basketball academic fraud draws near, the country’s largest sports magazine attacked University President Mark Yudof’s one-year ban on postseason play.
In a column in the Nov. 8 issue of Sports Illustrated, “America’s Funniest University: Was Minnesota joking when it slapped itself on the wrist?” L. John Wertheim called Yudof’s self-imposed sanctions absurdly lenient. He also questioned Vice President McKinley Boston’s and Men’s Athletics Director Mark Dienhart’s continued University employment.
In an interview with the Daily, Wertheim said the University should let Boston and Dienhart go for the good of the program.
“I think personnel changes are in order,” Wertheim said. “When you have a scandal of this magnitude, for the vice president and the athletics director to still be employed, I don’t know what kind of message that sends.”
In the Scorecard column, Wertheim wrote, “Vice President McKinley Boston — who apparently allowed his buddy (Clem) Haskins to set up an independent academic support system for the basketball team — is still on the job, along with Men’s Athletics Director Mark Dienhart and the school’s NCAA compliance director, Chris Schoeman.”
Dienhart criticized the Sports Illustrated piece, saying the University has not ruled out further sanctions. He also said Yudof will write a letter of complaint to the magazine.
“It’s obvious that Sports Illustrated got the story wrong. You’d think a magazine of their stature would get this stuff right,” Dienhart said.
Wertheim also said the one-year postseason ban was a joke for a team picked at the bottom of the Big Ten this year. He called on the University to give up its 1996-97 Big Ten title and Final Four appearance.
“They should have forfeited the Final Four appearance,” Wertheim said. “It’s pretty obvious there were guys on that team who received improper help.”
Forfeiting the Final Four appearance as well as the Big Ten title would also mean returning the money received for the titles, a harsh financial penalty to any athletics department, Wertheim said.
“You’re looking at a $5 million scandal then,” Wertheim said. “I don’t know what kind of athletics department has that kind of surplus.”
The column also poked fun at Yudof terming the one-year ban “middle range.”
“The low range would presumably entail changing the flavor of Gatorade in the Gophers’ cooler,” Wertheim wrote.
Yudof’s chief of staff, Tonya Moten Brown, said the president disagreed with Wertheim’s assertion.
“The bottom line is they missed the point. President Yudof has said all along that further sanctions could be forthcoming after the report is in,” Brown said.
Brown said the president is waiting for all the evidence to come in before making a final decision, but further restructuring in the men’s basketball program could occur.
“Further personnel changes could happen depending on the outcome of this report,” she said.

Josh Linehan welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.