Coach defends threat to yank press passes

Megan Boldt

Dan Monson, men’s basketball coach, threatened to withhold The Minnesota Daily’s press credentials for the rest of the season after the paper published a column proposing the death penalty for the Gophers basketball team.
Monson said his actions were an attempt to work things out between his players and the Daily. He said he told sports columnist Josh Linehan the Daily would not get the press credentials until he met with Monson.
The Daily received this season’s credentials at a media luncheon Wednesday, after a second column was published Tuesday.
Marc Ryan, men’s athletics spokesman, said the credentials would never have been held, regardless of the tone of the article.
“Monson is not the person who distributes the press credentials. Media relations does,” he said. “(Media relations) would never deny credentials. It was an opinions piece.”
Linehan’s column suggesting the basketball program be suspended for its actions in the academic fraud scandal ran in the Daily’s Oct. 13 issue.
At a meeting last Friday, Linehan said Monson told him if he didn’t write a more favorable piece, reporters would be denied access to the lockerroom, game and news conferences.
“We understand the paper is entitled to have its own opinion,” Monson said. “I just want the facts to be correct.”
Linehan was contacted by Brad Ruiter, associate men’s sports information director, on Oct. 26 and was asked to meet with Monson and basketball player John-Blair Bickerstaff to discuss inaccuracies in his column.
Linehan cited charges of underage drinking against Bickerstaff, but did not mention the charges were dropped, Ryan said.
The meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 18, which Ryan said Linehan and Daily Editor-in-Chief Julia Grant missed.
Linehan said both he and Grant waited for 20 minutes for Monson to finish practice and left Williams Arena. That’s when, in the absence of the two Daily employees, the holding of credentials was brought up.
At last Friday’s meeting, Grant suggested Bickerstaff write a guest column or another Daily staffer who disagreed with Linehan’s column write an opinion piece. Monson did not accept.
Linehan said the decision whether to write a favorable column was difficult and he had a lot of factors to weigh.
“Your first initial response is you have a duty to report the truth,” Linehan said. “But you have two reporters who want to cover basketball and students who want to read about the basketball team.”
Basketball beat reporter John Carter said Monson would never have done this if the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press had run the column.
“Just because we’re a student newspaper doesn’t mean we have to write just about the positive aspects of the team,” he said.
Ryan said Monson knew he is not the one to distribute the press credentials. But Ryan did not say whether he or the athletic department knew about Monson’s threat before the meeting.
Monson said there was no threat to the Daily if Linehan met with athletic officials.
“If they feel I insinuated that, so be it,” Monson said. “I just wanted to work things out between the Daily and my players.”

Megan Boldt welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3235.