Editor’s note: This story originally stated J Robinson’s home had been searched by investigators. Robinson’s agent, James C.W. Bock, and another source have since told the Star Tribune it was Robinson’s campus office, not home, that was searched.
HUTCHINSON, MINN. – The University of Minnesota placed Gophers wrestling coach J Robinson on paid leave Wednesday, the same day sources confirmed that university police have searched Robinson’s office and seized his computer as part of an investigation into his team’s alleged drug abuse.
Mark Coyle, on his first day as Minnesota’s athletic director, spoke to Robinson in person Wednesday morning and wrote him a letter that said, in part, “While on administrative leave, you are relieved of your regular University duties. … You are not to be on campus.”
Robinson, 69, has not responded to phone and text messages since allegations surfaced last week that four Gophers wrestlers were selling the prescription sedative Xanax, with 10 to 12 wrestlers said to have taken the drug.
A Gophers wrestler, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Robinson offered to give his athletes amnesty if they wrote one-page confession letters. The source said the wrestlers had acquired 2,500 Xanax pills and turned over 1,400 of them to Robinson.
University police have been investigating the wrestling team since April 11 and obtained search warrants to probe Robinson’s university office and personal computer. The university launched its own investigation Tuesday. Coyle said Robinson is on paid administrative leave “pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
Coyle’s letter to Robinson, obtained by the Star Tribune, says, “The University had hoped to interview you regarding the [wrestling team’s drug concerns]. … However, you have notified the University through your attorney that you would not agree to be interviewed. If you change your mind, please let me know.”
Robinson’s agent, James C.W. Bock, did not return messages Wednesday. After issuing a two-page statement Monday that defended Robinson’s role in handling the team’s suspected drug abuse, Bock texted the Star Tribune on Tuesday, “I have no further comment until the University starts telling the truth about what it knows.”
Robinson has led the Gophers to three national championships in 30 years as coach. He is under contract through 2020, at $146,000 per year. He also profits from a series of annual summer wrestling camps held on campuses across the country.
This summer, Robinson has four wrestling camps scheduled at the U, with the first one to begin July 2. University spokesman Evan Lapiska said a decision has yet to be made over whether Robinson will be able to hold this year’s camps.
Coyle’s letter to Robinson says that while on leave, “You are not to conduct business or engage in other activities in your university capacity.”
The letter was copied to university general counsel William Donohue. It adds that Robinson is “not to take any actions that might interfere with or seek to improperly influence the outcome of University’s investigation.”
Asked how Robinson took the news when they met Wednesday morning, Coyle referred to his previous stint working in Gophers marketing from 2001 to 2005.
“J and I go back from my time in Minnesota when I was here before,” Coyle said. “I spent almost four years with Coach Robinson, and he was understanding of it.”
The U doesn’t plan to name an acting head coach while Robinson is on paid leave, said senior associate athletic director Chris Werle.
Dean Johnson, chairman of the U’s Board of Regents, said he thinks Coyle made the right decision in putting Robinson on paid leave.
“There are so many questions surrounding the wrestling team, so many rumors and innuendos,” Johnson said. “We have an investigation going, and we want to deal with the facts. And when the facts are known, then a decision will be made.
“On the human side, you feel badly. Somebody’s given 30 years of their life to an institution and it all comes to this. But we have to make the proper decision and do what’s best for the institution.”