NCAA Puts Minnesota Hoops on Probation

The Minnesota men’s basketball program was placed on four years probation and stripped of five scholarships today for what the NCAA termed “academic fraud” and some of “the most serious” rules violations in two decades.

The Golden Gophers will not be banned from another year of postseason play, although that was “seriously considered,” according to an NCAA news release obtained by The Associated Press.

University officials had hoped to avoid such a ban.

In addition, three former university employees, including former coach Clem Haskins, will have to come before the NCAA infractions committee if they want to return to college sports. For Haskins, that “show cause” period is seven years.

The scholarship reduction is spread over three years.

The committee agreed with the university’s conclusions that from 1994 to 1998, a former tutor did some 400 pieces of coursework for at least 18 men’s basketball student-athletes.

“The violations were significant, widespread and intentional,” the NCAA said in its release. “More than that, their nature — academic fraud — undermined the bedrock foundation of a university and the operation of its intercollegiate athletics program.”

The punishment from the NCAA was first reported Monday night by the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, and later confirmed to the AP by a school official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The NCAA planned formal release of the report later today.

Coursework Done for 18 Ball Players

The scandal broke in March 1999, when former tutor and office manager Jan Gangelhoff came forward with her story of helping athletes cheat.

The NCAA commended Minnesota for its investigation and comprehensive self-punishment, which included an offer to repay 90 percent of its money for playing in the 1994, 1995 and 1997 NCAA basketball tournaments, or about $350,000.

But the NCAA ordered that team records from the NCAA tournament and National Invitation Tournament — and the tournament records of players who engaged in academic fraud from 1993-94 through 1998-99 — be erased.

Haskins, who accepted a $1.5 million buyout to leave the school several months after Gangelhoff came forward, also will have those tournament victories and any mention of the Final Four appearance erased from his record.

The infractions committee’s report found that Gangelhoff, a former office manager in the university’s academic counseling unit, completed coursework for at least 18 basketball players — and that former academic adviser Alonzo Newby arranged the work with Haskins’ knowledge.

Newby and Gangelhoff also must go before the infractions committee if they want to return to college athletics, Newby for the next seven years and Gangelhoff for the next five, according to the news release.

Attorneys for Haskins and Newby did not immediately return phone calls this morning. A woman who answered the phone at Haskins’ Kentucky ranch said he did not want to comment. Gangelhoff’s attorney, Jim Lord, said she would decide later today whether to comment. Lord said he had seen the NCAA report but would not discuss the contents until it was officially released.

Breadth of On-Campus Fraud

Minnesota officials highlighted the school’s self-sanctions in April at a hearing before the NCAA infractions committee, and pointed out that ties were severed to most of the people closely linked to the scandal.

The NCAA committee has weighed those facts against what has been called one of the most serious cases of academic fraud in recent history.

Other high-profile penalties handed down in the past 10 or 15 years — such as sanctions against UNLV, Kansas and Kentucky — dealt mostly with recruiting violations. The Minnesota case is rare for the scope of the on-campus fraud.

Second-year coach Dan Monson compared waiting for the NCAA decision to being like a child waiting for the spanking he’ll get when his father gets home.

Scandal Hurts Recruiting

But the scandal has been more than frustrating for Monson and other Minnesota officials. It has hurt recruiting.

Center Rick Rickert of Duluth, Minnesota’s top high-school prospect and one of the nation’s top recruits, delayed announcing his college choice until Wednesday. He was considering Minnesota and Arizona.

In March 1999, the day before the Gophers started play in the NCAA tournament, the Pioneer Press reported that Gangelhoff admitted writing papers for players.

The story prompted a nine-month, $2.2 million investigation by the university. Federal prosecutors are still looking into the case.

Minnesota and the NCAA allege that Newby steered players to Gangelhoff and that Haskins rewarded her. Investigators also say that Newby helped get grades or classes changed to keep several players eligible and that Haskins told players to lie after the story broke.

Haskins admitted — after several denials — that he paid Gangelhoff $3,000 cash to tutor a student after she was ordered to stay away from the team. Minnesota is suing to retrieve the $1.5 million buyout given Haskins, claiming he broke school and NCAA rules and violated his contract when he admitted paying Gangelhoff.

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