MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The University of Minnesota might never regain the credibility it lost last year when a massive academic fraud scandal was exposed in its basketball program.
But the school, its students and alumni might gain a small sense of satisfaction if university lawyers decide to go after the $1.5 million it took to get Clem Haskins to leave town.
University lawyers are looking into the possibility of trying to recoup Haskins' buyout thanks to the latest development in the sorrowful saga.
"We have very able counsel here at the U. and when we decide to litigate a case we'll win it," declared university attorney Mark Rotenberg, who said the school might sue Haskins to get its money back.
It seems the university has all the evidence of dishonesty it needs.
Rotenberg said Haskins has acknowledged giving $3,000 to a woman who tutored basketball players after she was ordered to stay away from the team. The woman, Jan Gangelhoff, was at the center of the scandal for doing coursework for players. The payment would violate Haskins' contract and NCAA rules.
Haskins repeatedly denied such a payment in his previous responses to NCAA and school investigators, as well as to university president Mark Yudof.
But a federal probe is looming, and in an "addition and correction process" to the NCAA's official notice of inquiry, Haskins acknowledged the payment to Gangelhoff in spring 1998, Rotenberg said.
Haskins' personal financial records, turned over to the NCAA, showed the payment was made, Rotenberg said.
When the school bought out Haskins' contract, it lacked the evidence it needed to send him on his way without the $1.5 million.
"At the time, we did not have concrete evidence of violations of NCAA rules or our policies that would justify our breaking a written contract with Coach Haskins," Rotenberg said, "And so the decision was made to move him out of the program before the investigation was concluded so that we could get a fresh start.
"That was the priority of the Board of Regents. That was the priority of the president. They were not willing to wait for the protracted, extensive investigation to conclude," Rotenberg said. "They wanted to protect the basketball program and they chose to move ahead and remove Coach Haskins consistent with the contract that was in place at the time."
After the scandal broke, the university launched a multi-million dollar investigation that took nine months and led to a 1,000-page report now in the hands of the NCAA. The school's report concluded in November that Haskins knew of the fraud, lied to investigators and told his players to lie after the wrongdoing was exposed.
It even concluded that Haskins likely was the source of the $3,000 payment to Gangelhoff.
But there was no hard proof.
"The U. of M. is an academic institution; we're not the FBI," Rotenberg said. "We spent a lot of time and money trying to isolate the truth. We think we got this allegation essentially right the first time. But the misstatements by Mr. Haskins regarding this particular point obviously did not help our investigation."
Rotenberg called Haskins earlier denials "misstatements."
He never came right out and said Haskins had lied. Why not?
"You folks and the people of Minnesota can figure out what's going on here," he said. "The president and I were invited to the coach's home. ... We talked about this very issue. Our investigators talked to him about this very issue, and the NCAA investigators talked to him about this very issue."
And all along Haskins denied giving the cash to the tutor.
Now he's saying OK, he did give her the cash.
And that should be the first step in forcing Haskins to give all that other money back to the university.
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