Sports Illustrated gives its take on the scandal

Erin Ghere

The most recent issue of Sports Illustrated suggests that the Gophers basketball players’ academic misconduct scandal was as much the fault of University faculty members as it was Coach Clem Haskins’ and other team officials’.
The article, which hit stands Tuesday, focused on what the magazine called “friendly faculty,” professors who accepted papers from players despite evidence they were written by someone else, namely Jan Gangelhoff, a former University tutor.
In a March 10 article in the Pioneer Press, Gangelhoff said she wrote 400 papers for 20 basketball players between 1993 and 1998 and that basketball coach Clem Haskins was aware of the academic misconduct.
“Jan Gangelhoff may have written 400 papers, but she couldn’t have done all this by herself,” Elayne Donahue, former director of the academic counseling unit for athletics, told Sports Illustrated. “There had to be faculty willing to accept those papers and not question how a poor student had suddenly mastered the art of writing.”
For their cooperation, “friendly faculty” received free tickets to University sporting events and opportunities for all-expenses-paid trips to attend out-of-town games and tournaments.
Gangelhoff said one faculty member, John Taborn, an African-American studies professor, arranged a four-credit independent study for former Gopher Bobby Jackson in which the only assignment was for Jackson to type “basketball” into a database and list the articles that came up, according to the article. Taborn told Sports Illustrated he couldn’t remember the specifics of the assignment and that a lengthy paper would have been the minimum assignment.
The article also said some professors had expressed that the papers were accepted because they didn’t want to dampen support for a successful basketball program.
“Who wants to be the guy who costs us the star basketball player?” said an unnamed professor in the article.
But some professors did ask questions. Sports Illustrated explained the situation of former University faculty member Sander Latts, who had former Gophers basketball player Courtney James in a class.
After James expressed concern over his eligibility, Latts told James that if he wrote a good paper, it would count in place of the six papers James should have already turned in during the quarter. Just a few days later, after the Gophers had won the NCAA Midwest Regional to earn their first trip to the Final Four, James turned in a paper on the Fair Housing Act.
Latts said the paper was “one of the 10 best papers I’ve received in 40 years of teaching.” He said he had never seen a paper turned around that quickly and questioned James about it, especially after James had just played in two of the most important games in his college career. To explain himself, James told Latts that he stayed at the hotel when the rest of the team went out and partied.
Still suspicious, Latts brought his concerns to Norman Chervany, the liaison between the faculty and the men’s athletics department, but nothing was ever done. Unable to prove his case, Latts accepted the paper.
Sports Illustrated portrayed other similar situations with University professors, including one in which Haskins went to the classroom of a instructor to discuss former basketball player Voshon Leonard’s classwork: “Haskins was in fact flouting an unwritten Minnesota rule against coaches trying to influence their players’ professors,” according to the article. The instructor later received tickets to a Gophers game; however, he failed Leonard at the end of the quarter.
Haskins has denied all knowledge of ghostwritten papers, although Gangelhoff alleges that he told her on at least two separate occasions, “remember Jan, those papers can’t be too good.”
Sports Illustrated reported that during Haskins’ Minnesota coaching career, only 23 percent of his players have left the University with a degree — the worst in the Big Ten — and that the 1997 team turned in the worst grade point average of any Gophers’ team, as low as 1.64 one quarter.