While the Minnesota Golden Gophers were having a great run on the court, they were having major problems off of it. During the height of their playoff success accusations were raised about the academic achievements of some of the players. Players in college sports must have a minimum GPA in order to be eligible to play. One of the people charged with helping these student athletes claims that she was paid off by the Gophers head coach to help players cheat.
JIM LEHRER: Next, balancing games and grades. The National Collegiate Athletic Association met this week to consider eligibility standards. The latest grade scandal occurred early this year in the big ten. We have a report from Fred de Sam Lazaro of KTCA-St. Paul-Minneapolis.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Until a few months ago, the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball team was enjoying some of its headiest years. In 1997, for example, the team entered the Final Four at the prestigious NCAA Tournament.
SPORTSCASTER: And for the first time in 15 years the Big Ten basketball championship will come to Minnesota!
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The Minnesota Gophers and especially Coach Clem Haskins made legions of fans across the state and with millions of dollars from TV rights and ticket sales, Minnesota has been one of the most profitable teams in the Big Ten. But now Coach Haskins is out and his team is in disgrace. It began with news that Minnesota’s team has the lowest grade point average in the big ten. For example, not one of the five starters on the 1997 team went on to graduate. Academic performance has long been an issue in the big-money college sports like football and basketball. Nationally only 41 percent of college basketball players ever graduate. A few years ago the National Collegiate Athletic Association began to mandate that players take all the required core courses toward a degree in order to play.
SPOKESMAN: More defense.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It turns out a number of Minnesota athletes may have had help remaining eligible from this woman.
JAN GANGLEHOFF, Former University of Minnesota Office Manager: It was understood that whatever needed to be done to keep the kid eligible, it was okay with him.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Jan Ganglehoff, university office manager, claims she wrote about 400 papers for 20 basketball players during a four-year period in the early ’90s. Samples of the work were put on display at a news conference that she held with her attorney. Coach Haskins, she said, had direct knowledge of the scheme.
JAN GANGLEHOFF: He would say things like, “student X got a D, in such-and-such class. Now he’ll have to get a B, in this class or he might not be eligible.”
SPOKESPERSON: Implying what?
JAN GANGLEHOFF: Implying,” do whatever it took to see that he got a B in that class so he would be eligible.”
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ganglehoff claims she was paid from Coach Haskins’ pocket through an intermediary. She also got perks like trips to games in Hawaii. Ganglehoff’s claims were first revealed in a newspaper article published one day before this year’s NCAA play-offs. Haskins did not respond to the allegations but several team alumni came to his defense. Bobby Jackson is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ NBA team.
BOBBY JACKSON: I mean, I know Coach Haskins. I know his dignity. I know what type of man he is. So I know he wouldn’t allow none of that in his program.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For their part, university officials ordered an investigation, and they also dropped four players for their next playoff game. Each was named in the cheating scandal. Minnesota lost a game it was expected to win, which only fueled public anger at the turn of events — anger Governor Jesse Ventura aimed at the newspaper.
GOV. JESSE VENTURA: It just showed me another example of pioneer press, sensational journalism of their timing. I think it’s despicable and they felt the need to release this story the day before the NCAA tournament. It couldn’t have waited until after? It’s just another example of sensational journalism.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, to Dr. Elayne Donahue, whose job was to supervise the team’s academic counselors, it was just another example of improprieties in Clem Haskins’ basketball program, problems she claimed she reported as far back as 1991 to her supervisor.
DR. ELAYNE DONAHUE: He said, “I have spoken to the president and we have decided to do nothing.” And then his whole manner changed and our relationship changed forever. And he became very, very stern. And he said, and you are to get along with Clem Haskins. You are to make him happy. And then I don’t ever want to hear again that you’re not a team play in the Beerman Building.
ETTORE INFANTE, Former University of Minnesota Vice President: She did bring to me concern. There were no specific allegations. There were concerns on her part.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Former Vice President Infante says there’s often tension between academic counselors and coaches since each makes competing demands on an athlete’s time. But Infante, now at Vanderbilt University, he provided memos that he said showed he strongly supported Donahue.
ETTORE INFANTE: At the same time, I must say, that I was rather insistent in telling to her that the well being — academic and athletic — of the student athletes depended on a necessary level of cooperation and collaboration between her and the coaches.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, critics say it’s hard for anyone to go up against coaches, often major public figures, earning huge salaries, in Haskins’ case some $700,000 a year, about three times the university president’s pay. Nick Coleman is a columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
NICK COLEMAN, Columnist, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Coaches have tyrannized and terrorized their campuses and even their presidents. They have too much power and they’re out of control. Sometime a university president is going to have to say, “you know, the coach is not in charge of this university.” And the university stands for something more than academic or rather than athletic performance or how much the coach gets paid. We have lost our perspective on this and I think the kids have been failed from one end to the other end in the spectrum.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: President Mark Yudof, who came to the University of Minnesota just a year ago, says it is possible to have winning teams and a high graduation rate, to provide a free college education to youth who would otherwise not get one. But Yudof admits the pressure is huge to win at all costs.
MARK YUDOF, President, University of Minnesota: We have enormous stadium renovations going on in this country — hundreds of millions of dollars. Well, if those teams don’t win, they’re not going to fill those stadiums. And if they don’t fill those stadiums, and they don’t fill those boxes, they’re not going to be able to pay off those bonds. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the driving force of money has an impact on this area. And it’s not an accident that you don’t see this in the women’s volleyball team or you don’t see it as much in wrestling and so forth.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For his part, Haskins denied any wrongdoing. The coach made only one media appearance on a radio station he had served before as a commentator.
SPOKESMAN: Are you going to make it through all of this?
CLEM HASKINS, Coach, University of Minnesota Gophers: Yeah, I’ll get through it. When you have God on your side and if you believe in God, you don’t worry about your enemies, he fights your enemies for you.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Haskins left the University of Minnesota in June with a $1.5 million severance package. The university has yet to find a new coach. That already difficult job could be further complicated if the investigation results in NCAA sanctions against Minnesota. These findings are expected sometime in September.
JIM LEHRER: The Minnesota case and others like it have spurred a move for reform among some in the NCAA. This week, a special panel recommended rewarding colleges with high graduation rates for basketball players and tightening rules on freshman athletes. The NCAA’s executive committee will consider the proposals next month.