Haskins, Minn. Argue Over Buyout
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The University of Minnesota has no justification to now demand the return of the $1.5 million buyout it paid Clem Hawkins, the lawyer for the former coach said.
Ron Meshbesher, in documents filed in Hennepin County District Court on Wednesday, said the school had abundant evidence regarding allegations of academic fraud against Haskins when it bought out his contract in 1999.
``While the university had actual knowledge of most of the alleged wrongdoing, it also had notice of it through many sources, not the least of which was the Twin Cities news media,″ Meshbesher said.
The first allegations of cheating surfaced in March 1999 when Jan Gangelhoff, a former office manager in the athletic academic counseling unit, said she had completed hundreds of pieces of course work for at least 20 men’s basketball players in the mid-1990s.
Meshbesher also challenged new allegations of cheating under Haskins that were included in university documents filed last month.
His memorandum also opposed a motion by the university for financial damages in addition the $1.5 million.
A university investigation concluded that Haskins was involved in the academic scandal. But Meshbesher said his client’s contract ensures that he will keep the buyout money regardless of any new allegations.
The university says Haskins must repay the money because he denied wrongdoing before accepting the buyout, thus committing fraud.
``In Minnesota, when you lie your way into a deal, you do not get to keep the profits from your lies,″ university lawyer Lorie Gildea said.
Last month, the university said it had new information showing that large-scale cheating began years before Gangelhoff started writing papers for players. It cited subpoenaed depositions from two former university employees.
Patricia Barta, a former student secretary, alleged that under instructions from Haskins, she wrote as many as 50 papers and completed an independent study course to keep Willie Burton eligible to play. She said Haskins gave her money and gifts.
Gail Splinter, another former secretary, ``did substantial academic work for players, and Haskins directed her ‘to fix’ a poorly written paper a men’s basketball player had given her to type,″ the university alleged. It said she ``also confirmed″ that Haskins paid her for her work.
However, Meshbesher said in his brief that ``the university’s reliance on the deposition testimony of Gail McDonald Splinter and Patricia Barta is far from clear and convincing evidence″ and that it wasn’t credible.
He said Splinter testified that she had severe memory problems because she was using alcohol and drugs when she worked for Haskins. Meshbesher filed portions of her deposition.
He also said that the university ``exaggerates Barta’s testimony about Haskins’ alleged knowledge of academic fraud,″ and that the only time she said she had direct contact with him about writing papers was in connection with Burton. He said her charges are uncorroborated.
Gildea said Wednesday that Haskins is not being truthful about the two former employees, noting that he denied once paying Gangelhoff $3,000 but later acknowledged it.