Federal inquiry centers on player’s records

Josh Linehan

During his senior season at the University, no one could find a way to stop Bobby Jackson. He averaged 16.1 points per game that season, en route to winning Big Ten player of the year honors and leading the Gophers to their first-ever Final Four appearance.
It had been a long road for Jackson: from North Carolina, where he was raised, to Nebraska, to Minnesota, and finally to a basketball court in San Antonio, Texas, where Jackson stood with the ball in his hands after defeating UCLA in the regional finals.
Now, the U.S. Justice Department might have found a defense to take the ball out of Jackson’s hands, in the form of a subpoena requesting several records regarding his academic career.
University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg announced the federal request in a press conference Friday. Jackson’s was the only name specifically mentioned in the subpoenas.
The inquiry is centered around course work Jackson submitted via correspondence courses before he played basketball for the Gophers. The subpoena also requires records and transcripts sent to the University from Western Nebraska Community College, where Jackson spent three years before coming to Minnesota.
Former tutor Jan Gangelhoff has long claimed she did course work for Jackson while he was still in Nebraska, work that enabled the star to become academically eligible to play for the Gophers. The possibility of the course work being sent via U.S. mail opens the case to federal mail-fraud inquiries.
Jackson, though a highly talented player, blew his chances of initially competing at a Division I level while still in high school in Salisbury, N. C.
Because of his prep grades, Jackson was a Proposition 48 non-qualifier. Prop 48 combines a student’s standardized test scores and GPA to determine eligibility to play, practice and receive financial aid. Bobby Jackson was not eligible.
So he enrolled at Western Nebraska, where further hardship followed. At his first practice, Jackson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, ending his first season of college basketball.
Left with nothing to do but study, Jackson said he truly concentrated on class work for the first time.
“That was the biggest turn in my life,” Jackson said after his senior season. “By sitting out that year, I got into my books and did the things that were going to help Bobby Jackson become successful in the future.”
After playing two years at Western Nebraska, Jackson decided to transfer to Minnesota, choosing the Gophers over other suitors including Wake Forest.
To become an eligible student-athlete at the University, Jackson enrolled in two correspondence history courses in the fall of 1995. Jackson passed the classes, allegedly with much help from Gangelhoff, and gained the necessary credits to play for the Gophers the following season.
After starring for the Gophers, Jackson declared himself eligible for the 1997 NBA draft without earning a degree. He was chosen 23rd overall by the Seattle Supersonics. Seattle then dealt the 6-foot-1 guard to Denver.
Jackson played one year with the Nuggets, averaging 11.6 points per game. Then, in early 1999, Jackson was dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a seven-player deal involving the Nuggets, Wolves and Toronto Raptors.
Jackson spent most of the lockout-shortened season backing up then-Minnesota point guard Stephon Marbury. On Feb. 11, 1999, Jackson and fellow former Gopher Sam Jacobson played against each other for the first time in front of a raucous crowd at the Target Center.
Though both players had been used sparingly, the Minnesota crowd began chanting “We want Sam,” with nearly five minutes to play in the game. After Jacobson entered the game, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders sent Jackson into the game as well, spurring loud cheers of “Let’s go, Gophers.”
Jackson has seen extensive minutes lately for the Timberwolves and has helped lead the team to a 49-31 record and a spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
Reached on the road in Vancouver on Friday, Jackson reportedly said he had no idea what was transpiring with the federal investigation and said he hoped all of the investigation would be over soon. Jackson then boarded a plane for Los Angeles, where the Wolves played the Lakers on Sunday.
Whatever the outcome of the investigation, chances are slim federal authorities could punish Jackson, who has said he still intends to return to the University to finish his degree.

Josh Linehan welcomes comments at jlinehan.daily.umn.edu.