MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- University of Minnesota women's basketball coach Cheryl Littlejohn said she is not "a rule breaker" and will cooperate with an investigation of alleged NCAA rules violations in her program.
"There are reasons for what has happened here, but sometimes people can't handle hearing the truth," Littlejohn told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press in a report published Thursday.
Mark Rotenberg, the university's general counsel, said Wednesday that his office was conducting an internal investigation of the alleged violations, which could take three to four weeks, with help from outside counsel. The allegations were made by former and current student-athletes and others.
"We've notified the NCAA, and we'll provide them with the self-report as soon as we're done," Rotenberg said.
Littlejohn was placed on an indefinite leave of absence with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, said Chris Voelz, women's athletic director.
"The student-athletes will continue their offseason routine," said Voelz, who made the decision to place Littlejohn on leave. She said three assistant coaches will divide Littlejohn's duties in the meantime.
Both Voelz and Rotenberg said they couldn't comment on how the decision to place Littlejohn on leave relates to the nature of the allegations or the investigation. But Rotenberg did say the allegations do not involve academic misconduct and that as many as 20 people have been interviewed so far.
"I don't consider myself a law breaker or a rule breaker," Littlejohn, who once worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles, told the Pioneer Press. "Some things may be interpreted as a rules violation, but I want the chance to explain myself."
Littlejohn, 36, also said she could not comment specifically on the alleged violations but told the newspaper they supposedly happened in 1998 or 1999.
"It's interesting that the allegations are brought up now instead of when they were supposed to have happened," she said.
Rotenberg said the NCAA has "a lot of confidence in our investigation since we just got through with a complicated one." He was referring to widespread academic fraud found within the men's basketball program in 1999, during which NCAA investigators "confirmed all aspects of our investigative findings, and didn't find anything new. They'll probably follow the same practice with this one."
Littlejohn is in the fourth year of a five-year contract paying $101,800 annually. The Gophers were 8-20 and 1-16 in the Big Ten this season. Littlejohn is 29-81 and 7-58 in the Big Ten during her career. Games have been poorly attended, and the program brought in $43,000 in revenue during the 1999-2000 season while operating at a $1 million annual deficit.
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