The front page of Thursday’s Star Tribune featured an article reported by Amelia Rayno that carried this subhead: “Critics claim that U’s Teague and Kaler are focusing on men’s sports at the expense of equal opportunity.’’
The article revealed that representatives from the U.S. Department of Education have been on campus this week, investigating a claim from 2014 that Gophers athletics discriminated against women.
Athletic Director Norwood Teague and his boss, university President Eric Kaler, establish the priorities, and they would be responsible if women’s athletics have turned into an “afterthought,’’ as the anonymous complaint to the Department of Education charges.
The idea is that Teague has been focused on gathering all possible resources for major men’s sports, and getting by with the minimum Title IX requirements for women’s athletics.
It required a newsprint journey all the way from Page A1 to Page C3 in Thursday’s Star Tribune to find more evidence of Teague’s and Kaler’s willingness to do anything for the men’s majors, no matter how absurd.
It was there on C3 that Sid Hartman’s column carried the headline: “Gophers’ Pitino gets $400K pay increase.’’
The idea that this raise was coming had been in the wind with the local sports media for several weeks – that Teague planned to give a raise to Richard Pitino, the Gophers’ young and so far unsuccessful men’s basketball coach, as soon as the Legislative session came to a conclusion.
If that was the case, that the university wanted this information to come after the political business in St. Paul was concluded, then that timeline can be presumed to have come from Kaler.
Reason: The university is always at the Legislature begging for more, and Kaler’s people would not want to run into even one politician who would say, “You must have more money that you need over there if you’re handing it out to Rich Pitino for no Earthly reason.’’
Pitino was hired to replace the fired Tubby Smith after the 2012-13 season. The Gophers missed the NCAA tournament and won the NIT in 2013-14. They brought back an experienced team with adequate talent in 2014-15 and completely fell on their faces.
Most observers considered them 50-50 for the NCAA before the start of the season. The Gophers were never in contention for the NCAA. They were 6-12 in the Big Ten, a season that became such a disaster that they didn’t even get a place in the NIT.
There are 68 teams in the NCAA and another 32 get named to the NIT, the traditional consolation tournament. That means Richard Pitino’s Gophers did not figure in the nation’s top 100 for the postseason.
It was also a season in which Pitino had the following lads in his program for a time:
Daquein McNeil was charged with domestic assault and ultimately thrown off the team. Josh Martin, a ballyhooed recruit, left the program before the end of the first semester. Zach Lofton was accepted as a transfer despite behavioral issues, and soon was thrown off the team.
More recently, it was revealed that Jonathan Nwankwo – a signee for 2015-16 – would not be part of the program, presumably due to academic deficiencies.
Mr. Hartman saw wisdom in the decision of Teague and Kaler to throw more money at Pitino after a lousy season filled with departures due to crime or lesser missteps.
Sid included the following paragraph in his reasoning:
“It was reported in March that Pitino had seriously considered taking the Alabama head coaching position, and apparently [Teague] recognized Pitino’s worth to the university and had fears about him leaving …’’
There are also Alabama sources that will tell you Pitino never was considered for that job, that he wasn’t on a long list much less a short one – that his name was only mentioned because his father Rick Pitino called a friend in the media and asked him to throw out Richard as a possibility because it could help him to seem coveted after a putrid second season at Minnesota.
Sid also offered this paragraph in his Thursday column: “There’s no question Teague knows Pitino is going to continue to be in demand when jobs open up …’’
What remains a very big question is whether there has been even a modicum of demand for Pitino to this point.
St. John’s wanted Richard Pitino, but they settled for Chris Mullin? You betcha. Alabama wanted Richard Pitino, but they settled for Avery Johnson and his NBA pedigree? No doubt.
Teague and Kaler should be hoping that the U.S. Department of Education representatives on campus investigating the Title IX complaint are in the group that no longer takes a look at a daily newspaper.
Otherwise, all the investigators will have to do is turn to Page C3 in Thursday’s Star Tribune for confirmation of excesses in the major men’s programs while women’s athletics become an afterthought.
All the investigators will have to do is see the headline, “Gophers’ Pitino gets $400K pay increase,’’ and the premise of the complaint will have come a long way toward being proven.