Dienhart ends term; scandal web continues to spin unpredictably

by Josh Linehan

The circus surrounding University men’s athletics will continue Monday under several different tents. Round and round and round it goes, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
And though many spectators are listening to this contest in the car on the way out of town, here’s a roundup for those still scoring at home.
Mark Dienhart will end his tenure as men’s athletics director Monday after placing the Gophers football team in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31. Maybe.
Dienhart, at a Nov. 19 press conference announcing his resignation, said the head athletics job was the only one he wanted, and he refused to accept a lowered position as McKinley Boston did. Boston’s control over athletics oversight was stripped in exchange for him keeping his job until June.
But recent reports indicate Dienhart wants to meet with University President Mark Yudof on Monday to discuss a lower position that would allow him to remain employed and save him about $60,000, the portion of his contract he would have to pay back if he leaves today.
The president, however, will be a hard man to get ahold of Monday.
Yudof is also expected to meet Monday with Glen Mason to renegotiate the football coach’s contract.
Yudof, who vowed to employ no more “power coaches” during his tenure, has pledged to give Mason a “significant raise” after a season in which the Gophers went 8-3 and defeated then second-ranked Penn State.
Mason, who will receive more than $500,000 in salary and incentives this year, has shopped around recently, interviewing for jobs at Louisiana State University and Michigan State University.
Louisiana State hired former Michigan State coach Nick Saban after Mason turned down the job. Mason then discussed replacing Saban with Spartan officials before Michigan State removed the interim tag from coach Bobby Williams’ job description Sunday, ending the game of musical coaches.
Confused yet? Hold on.
Yudof, presumably after changing the oil in his car and cleaning the garage, is also expected to announce the appointment of Tom Moe as interim men’s athletics director Monday.
Moe, a former Gophers football and basketball star in the late 1950s and former managing partner at Dorsey & Whitney, is expected to accept the interim offer but has said he has no interest in keeping the position permanently.
If Yudof decides to allow Dienhart to remain employed through the remainder of his contract, Dienhart and Moe would presumably work together to prepare for the transition to the permanent men’s athletics director.
The appointment of Moe then appears to be an attempt to buy time for Yudof’s chief of staff, Tonya Moten Brown, who took control of athletics oversight last Wednesday. Brown will lead the search for a new men’s athletics director.
Brown faces a tough road in the near future, as she will have to hire a replacement for Dienhart, who was wildly popular in the men’s athletics department, as well as ensure scandals of this nature do not occur again.
She took the athletics-oversight position from McKinley Boston, who formerly held the title of vice president of student development and athletics.
The position was essentially created for Boston after then-Gov. Arne Carlson campaigned hard to keep Boston from leaving the University for a job at Florida State University.
Critics say Boston’s unique position enabled former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins to foster the “widespread and systematic” cheating by Gophers basketball players.
And what of Haskins, the “power coach” who, according to the independent investigation’s report of the scandal, had to have known about the misconduct and encouraged his players to cheat?
Faced with insufficient evidence to dismiss Haskins for cause last June, Yudof agreed to buy out Haskins’ contract for $1.5 million. Haskins, who is now building a new home in Campbellsville, Ky., seems to be laughing all the way to the bank.
But Yudof, in his Nov. 19 press conference, said the University will look into legal action to retrieve most of the money paid to Haskins.
Any such lawsuit, however, would probably require commentary from Alonzo Newby, the former academic counselor who has repeatedly asserted he has information vital to the scandal but has refused to speak without compensation.
After former tutor Jan Gangelhoff came forward in March, saying she had written more than 400 papers for as many as 20 men’s basketball players, Newby called her statements “a piece of a much bigger pie.”
Newby, who was fired for failing to cooperate with investigators, might have a chance to speak early next year when the NCAA begins its own investigation. The NCAA expects to finish its query by April 2000, although final sanctions are not expected until September.
With or without Newby’s testimony, the University faces forfeiture of games including the 1997 Big Ten Championship and Final Four appearance. Forfeiting the Final Four could cost the University as much as $2.5 million, all of which will come from the men’s athletics budget, Yudof said.
Yudof imposed the only current sanctions on the men’s basketball program Oct. 27, banning the team from postseason play this year and placing it on indefinite probation.
Yudof called the sanctions “middle-range,” stating he did not want to impose a greater penalty than the NCAA would have. He has since said the move was in part made to help soften the blow of possible further sanctions.
Much of the national media disagreed with Yudof’s assessment, including Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim, who wrote, “banning the Gophers from the postseason is like barring the Saints from the Super Bowl.”
Yudof has since upped the ante considerably. After axing Boston and Dienhart as well as assistant athletics director Jeff Schemmel and NCAA compliance director Jeff Schoemann, Yudof considers his house in order.
Not one participant in the scandal, from players to the vice president, survived the scandal.
Oh, and by the way, this year’s basketball team, coached by Dan Monson — whose Gonzaga squad ousted the suspension-plagued Gophers from the NCAA tournament a day after the scandal broke last year — is 5-0 and looking like a team that could have a decent year.
The sad part is that’s not what anyone is going to remember.

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