Gophers have had problems before

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA, MARY JANE SMETANKA, DENNIS BRACKIN and HOWARD SINKER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 13, 1999 - 10:00 PM

University of Minnesota basketball players and coaches watched last Sunday as the nation's best basketball teams were sent crisscrossing the country for the first round of the NCAA men's tournament.

In previous years, the late-afternoon event had been festive. Cheerleaders, boosters and news people would gather in a Williams Arena clubroom, and cameras would capture the thrill of the bid or the disappointment of being passed over. This time they watched there alone, a cloistered gathering that would foreshadow days to come.

TV announcers called out 60 other schools in the 64-team field before the Gophers learned they were going to Seattle to play a little-known school called Gonzaga.

Players smiled and cheered in celebration and relief. There would be few more smiles and cheers associated with the 1998-99 Minnesota Gophers. Over the next 96 hours, their school would become the nation's newest example of the unwieldy coexistence between big-time college sports and higher education.

Clem Haskins, the coach who was hired in 1986 to restore integrity after three players were accused of sexual assault earlier that year, was being accused of running a program in which at least 20 players allegedly had course work done for them. Jan Gangelhoff, a former academic counseling secretary, had copies of papers she said she wrote for the players, some of whom told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she had done their assignments at her home while they watched her or watched TV in the next room.

Gangelhoff said that from the summer of 1993 to the spring of 1998, she completed more than 400 assignments for players. She provided the Pioneer Press with computer files of assignments she had written, as well as paper copies of five assignments that Gophers players submitted to teachers.

"In the two years I was there, I never did a thing," one of the players said.

Gangelhoff told the Pioneer Press that she decided to go public with the information because she was angered that the university had sent her a formal notice last year dissociating itself from her following an incident between her and a player involving course work.

Haskins has denied knowing about any academic wrongdoing.

The Gophers men's basketball program has been hit by controversies and scandals before. There was former coach Bill Musselman, a forfeit-induced 0-27 record of 1976-77, the investigation that followed the end of Jim Dutcher's coaching tenure in 1986, and player Courtney James' assault in 1997 -- but never anything quite like this.

Trouble brewing  

for 'U' University officials knew something was up on Monday, when a reporter from the Pioneer Press, which had been working on the story for about three months, started requesting interviews with senior university officials.

On Tuesday, President Mark Yudof and others learned what the newspaper was planning to report. He said the allegations were serious. McKinley Boston, the university vice president of student development and athletics, said there were inconsistencies in Gangelhoff's story. Haskins said he was thinking about Thursday's tournament game against Gonzaga and little else.

A hint of the pending troubles came that day when Mark Dienhart, the men's athletic director, gathered his bags and left the airport instead of boarding the chartered flight to Seattle.

Yudof was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., spending time with his wife, Judy, and daughter Samara, a student at Southern Methodist University who was on spring break. One of his staff members called his hotel and said a newspaper reporter wanted to talk to him.

Boston was in Indianapolis, where he was to serve as the site manager of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament's South Regional. Both men would come home earlier than scheduled -- Yudof by a few hours, Boston by a few days.

On the team's flight to Seattle, about an hour before landing, player Kevin Clark had a seizure -- three weeks after he had two major seizures on consecutive days. He has had seizures since his junior year of high school and is on medication to control them, although their cause hasn't been determined. He wobbled off the plane, aided by team trainer Roger Schipper.

As far as the public knew, Clark's health was the biggest issue surrounding the team. Haskins said the guard would play on Thursday, but wouldn't be at full strength.

The Seattle scene  

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