Kahn suggests joint department

by Mark Heller

State Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) is calling for sweeping changes in the makeup of the University’s athletic department in the wake of a former University staff member’s allegations of widespread academic fraud by current and former members of the Gophers men’s basketball team.
Rep. Kahn — a self-described “advocate of women’s athletics” — said she believes the University’s recent troubles are indicative of the need for University President Mark Yudof to replace the current separate athletic departments for men and women with one department that would oversee all Gophers athletics programs.
In addition, Rep. Kahn said that “because all of the recent problems in U of M athletics have involved men’s teams,” the current women’s athletics administration should be placed in charge of a new combined department.
“I have long been in favor of one athletic department at the University,” Rep. Kahn said. “I feel that the current administration in the Golden Gophers women’s athletic department has earned the right to lead the U of M athletics in the future, through their fine work in developing women’s sports and their strict adherence to University and NCAA regulations.”
Rep. Kahn’s assertion that only men’s teams — specifically hockey, basketball and football — have been involved in “questionable off-field behavior” isn’t entirely accurate, however. Seven members of the women’s basketball team were suspended prior to the 1998 Big Ten tournament for using alcohol.
McKinley Boston, vice president of student development and athletics, did acknowledge the advantages of one combined athletic department. But he also said “planning and communication would be two major disadvantages” in a one-department system.
The University is one of only a handful of schools in the country that have separate athletic programs.
Gophers women’s athletics director Chris Voelz said the split system works just fine.
“I don’t think this is the time to revisit the issue,” Voelz said. “To me, there has been nothing to initiate any kind of revisitation.
“This is a system the athletes love, coaches respect and public believes in.”