Haskins To Leave Minn. Coaching Job
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Clem Haskins, national coach of the year in 1997 after taking Minnesota to the Final Four, is out of a job although investigators found no evidence implicating him in an academic fraud scandal.
But university President Mark Yudof, who announced a $1.5 million buyout of Haskins’ contract, said it is ``extremely likely″ that fraud did occur and said a change was necessary to restore confidence.
``It is clear that on his watch, substantial, numerous violations of our academic conduct code have occurred,″ Yudof said. ``We thought it’s time for a management change.″
Haskins will step down June 30, three years before his 10-year contract was to expire. He compiled a 240-165 record in 13 seasons. The Gophers lost to Kentucky in the semifinals of the Final Four in 1997.
University officials said they will begin searching for a permanent or interim coach immediately.
Haskins has been under pressure since March, when former tutor Jan Gangelhoff said she did more than 400 pieces of course work for at least 20 basketball players from 1993 to 1998.
In the three months since then, the investigation has widened to include accusations of improper payments, travel irregularities and improper relationships between the team and university police investigating possible crimes involving players.
Haskins asserted his innocence when the scandal broke on the eve of the Gophers’ first-round NCAA game against Gonzaga. Four players were made ineligible for that game, a loss that ended Minnesota’s season.
He has maintained since then that he had no knowledge of wrongdoing. Phone calls to his suburban Minnetonka house Friday went unanswered.
But several players stopped by to visit Haskins, and McKinley Boston, vice president for student development and athletics, talked to the coach at his home.
``He’s disappointed, obviously, in the outcome, but he is not bitter,″ Boston said outside Haskins’ home. ``He remains loyal to the university. He wants to see the players rally and support each other. He’s hoping there is no exodus.″
Haskins issued a statement saying he had been honored to coach the Gophers and would continue to support them. The statement made no mention of the allegations or investigation.
Seven players held a news conference to express their disappointment.
``The past few weeks leading up to this has been tough on me,″ Gophers center Joel Przybilla said. ``Not just for me, for everyone. And today it just broke my heart. I just love the guy to death,″ .
Interim reports from investigators make it ``extremely likely there will be numerous findings of academic fraud, primarily and entirely connected to the writing of papers for students,″ Yudof said.
Though no evidence links Haskins to fraud, ``it is clear that public confidence in the academic integrity of the university has been eroded by the allegations. In order to restore that public confidence, a change in leadership is warranted,″ Yudof said.
The university is expected to report on its investigation to the NCAA in September. Yudof said earlier this week that the university was likely to sanction itself if its investigation showed wrongdoing. Enforcement records show the NCAA generally is less harsh on universities that deal decisively with rule-breaking.
Yudof acknowledged that people, including Gangelhoff, say Haskins knew about academic cheating by players. But he said ``when it comes to direct, provable evidence today _ maybe not for all time, but for today _ that evidence does not exist.″
As a matter of decency and fairness, Yudof said, he felt the university should honor Haskins’ contract. The buyout will be paid with money from the men’s athletics department.
The buyout agreement calls for Haskins to cooperate with any investigation and have a joint news conference with the university at a later date.
Jim Lord, an attorney for several people who have alleged wrongdoing in Minnesota athletics, called the buyout bad public policy without considering a challenge to Haskins’ contract.
``He orchestrated the scandal and in return they stuffed his pocket so full of money he has to waddle out of Williams Arena,″ Lord said.