and Sarah McKenzie
A University report on allegations of academic fraud in the men’s basketball program, originally due out today, will not be completed until late October, University officials have said.
After spending several weeks reviewing the report from investigators hired by the University, officials are expected to publicize the report and announce disciplinary measures and other University decisions in early November, said Sandra Gardebring, vice president of Institutional Relations, earlier this summer.
Time spent preparing a report on allegations of sexual misconduct contributed to the delay, Gardebring said. That report found a “pattern of favoritism” among University officials investigating criminal sexual conduct among student-athletes.
Even after that report was issued, however, other allegations continued to arise that men’s athletics officials failed to take alleged assaults seriously.
When the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence tried to bring in a group for yearly sexual violence awareness training, then-assistant to the Men’s Athletic Director Rufus Simmons expressed concern about the $8,000 cost of the training, according to the Star Tribune.
Because athletes had been so hostile toward PASV advocates during previous training sessions, PASV tried to bring in a nationally known outside group instead, two student advocates told the Star Tribune.
But Simmons did not organize the training program and failed to return telephone calls from program director Jamie Tiedemann, she told the Star Tribune. Tiedemann refused to comment on the allegations when contacted by The Minnesota Daily last week.
Since 1993, Simmons had been responsible for teaching male athletes to conduct themselves responsively when interacting with women, the Star Tribune reported.
Simmons, who retired on July 31, received his second citation for soliciting a prostitute in June. Men’s athletics officials said they did not know of the misdemeanor citations.
“Pattern of favoritism”
After completing the six-week sexual misconduct inquiry in July, investigators determined that men’s athletics officials were involved in at least 12 sexual misconduct investigations involving student-athletes since 1993.
A “pattern of favoritism” toward student-athletes accused of criminal sexual behavior was documented in the report.
“Although the (men’s) Athletic Department has consistently stated a policy of zero tolerance for sexual abuse and harassment, several witnessed described their perception of a culture of indifference and, on occasion hostility, to the rights of women,” the report stated.
The report’s findings did not reveal systematic interference, however. University President Mark Yudof made the misconduct report public on July 9 and issued a series of policy changes to address the wrongdoing.
“In my view the coaches should never meet with the victims or the victims’ parents, except under the most strict circumstance,” Yudof said following the report’s release.
Yudof implemented the following measures designed to prevent future interference in investigations involving athletes:
ù Men’s athletic officials are prohibited from contacting victims of any alleged sexual misconduct or domestic abuse without the consent of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
ù Members of the coaching staff and other athletic officials are prohibited from participating in criminal interviews involving complaints against student-athletes.
ù The Office of the General Counsel must approve any informal mechanisms designed to resolve sexual misconduct complaints.
ù Any student-athlete arrested for or charged with sexual assault or domestic abuse is automatically suspended from team activities.
Although the findings prompted administrative action, it is unclear who was involved in the misconduct and abuse because most of the 233-page report was redacted or whited out. Athletes, victims and officials were not identified.
The University’s refusal to disclose the report in its entirety has sparked criticism from local media and at least two alleged victims.
Two weeks after the findings were made public, the Star Tribune filed a complaint with the state’s Department of Administration, an oversight agency, in an attempt to gain access to the full report.
However, General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he is confident that University lawyers made the right decision. The privacy rights of students, victims and University employees are protected under state statute, he said.
Jim Lord, an attorney who represents two alleged victims interviewed by investigators, said he is disappointed with the University’s decision to withhold sections of the report related to his clients’ testimony.
He added that one of his clients who was allegedly assaulted by a former basketball player was initially skeptical about sharing her experiences with investigators.
“This was the second time she entrusted her story to the University of Minnesota,” Lord said. “But the way the report is written, you can’t tell if they have ignored her story once again.”
The Department of Administration is expected to issue an advisory opinion on the University’s decision to redact portions of the public report sometime this fall. The opinion, however, is not legally binding.
End of the Haskins era
Although the final report on academic fraud will not be completed until later this month, investigators related some preliminary findings of the academic fraud report to University officials in June.
Numerous substantiated findings of academic fraud at that time prompted University officials to begin negotiations for a buyout of men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ contract.
Because the University had not found just cause to terminate Haskins at that time, the University agreed to pay Haskins $1.5 million to leave the University, ending the 13-year tenure of the only coach to bring the Gophers to the Final Four.
The agreement, announced June 25, stipulated that the men’s athletics department would fund the buyout. Only the $423,000 deferred compensation portion — required even if Haskins had been fired with just cause — will be paid by the whole University.
Overall, University officials expect the cost of the seven-month investigation — not including Haskins’ buyout — to top $1.5 million.
Yudof had hoped to keep the cost between $500,000 and $1 million, Tonya Moten Brown, Yudof’s chief of staff, said in a published report.
The expense was due in part to the addition of the sexual misconduct charges. The complexity of the investigation, in which more than 150 people have been interviewed at least once, also contributed to the cost, Brown said.