Men’s athletics upset about results

by Jim Schortemeyer

Men’s athletics department employees stood in front of Morrill Hall on Friday morning to show support for men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart and two other athletics officials.
About 50 men’s athletics employees, including five current coaches, gathered around a small, white sign taped to a fence, declaring support for Dienhart, assistant men’s athletics director Jeff Schemmel and NCAA compliance director Chris Schoemann.
“We’ve been dealt with by Mark (Dienhart) in a fair, straight-forward fashion,” said men’s track coach Phil Lundin. “His leadership has been unprecedented at a school this size.”
Men’s tennis coach David Geatz agreed.
“I love the guy. He’s the best guy I have ever worked for,” he said. “I started working at age 12, hauling sugar beets. I’ve worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken. … You name it and I’ve done it, and Dienhart is the best guy I have worked for.
“He was tough, but he was always fair,” Geatz continued. “It’s always nice to work with someone smarter than you. I will miss the guy. I hope I can continue to have some kind of relationship with him.”
If the goal was to keep the three athletics employees at the University, the show of support failed. But attendees said the purpose was as much about showing support as it was about defending Dienhart’s reputation.
Wrestling coach J Robinson wanted to set the record straight.
“He cares about us,” Robinson said. “The thing we want to say is that we know him, we work with him, and the media is ripping on him. I like the guy, and I want him here.”
Former men’s hockey coach Doug Woog stood in front of Morrill Hall reading the 20-page executive summary and shivering in the morning air. A smattering of athletes from the wrestling and cross country teams were present as well as most of the men’s athletics administration and staff.
All expressed frustration over the long $1.5 million independent investigation. They also were upset because they perceived Dienhart’s resignation as punishment extending beyond the men’s basketball team.
“That basketball team had 15 guys on it. There’s 400 guys in men’s athletics. I don’t think it’s fair,” Robinson said.
Others were upset that coaches are accountable when athletes choose the wrong path in the classroom.
“No one’s going to come in and do their practice for them,” said men’s swimming and diving coach Dennis Dale. “I hold them accountable for the things in the swimming pool, and I expect the faculty to get off their horses and hold them accountable for things they have in their classes — and they don’t.”
The coaches were notified of Dienhart’s resignation at an 11 a.m. meeting, just before Dienhart held his press conference.
“He talked to us about a half an hour before the press conference here, and he got a standing ovation when he walked in,” Woog said, adding that a lot of tears were shed.
“Typical of Mark Dienhart, he did it with a lot of class,” baseball coach John Anderson said. “He asked all of us to go through this gracefully, and that’s Mark.”
Gary Wilson, the women’s cross country and track coach, coached against Dienhart when Dienhart coached the track and football teams at St. Thomas and Wilson coached at Wisconsin-La Crosse.
“I’ve known Mark for a long, long, long time,” Wilson said. “It’s too bad, but it’s an occupational hazard that goes with trying to control huge egos.”
McKinley Boston’s resignation as vice president of student development and athletics has a broad impact on both men’s and women’s athletics.
Women’s athletics director Chris Voelz responded to the string of press conferences with a two-sentence press release expressing her support for the men’s athletics department.
Although combining men’s and women’s athletics departments is a possibility, Yudof said today such a merger would not occur. Minnesota is one of three Big Ten schools that have separate men’s and women’s athletics departments.
“Why even make a move like that? It’s an isolated incident,” women’s basketball coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. “Why all big changes when it’s one program? That’s really jumping the gun.”

— Staff reports contributed to this article.

Jim Schortemeyer is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]