MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- John Means, who resigned as the Minnesota men's golf coach after an audit found that the university was billed for his wife's travels with the team, said Friday he never intended to deceive or defraud the school.
Means was entering his 12th year as Gophers coach when he resigned Thursday. He will serve as an assistant in the men's athletics department until December, when he will leave the university.
Former assistant Brad James was named interim head coach.
According to a university audit, obtained by the Star Tribune, there were eight instances over the past 18 months where relatives of a coach in the men's athletics department used airline tickets paid for by the university.
Men's athletics director Tom Moe told The Associated Press on Friday that the audit "was one of the factors that was taken into consideration" in Means' case, but declined to say whether the school asked or forced Means to resign.
"This is really a personnel issue as far as I'm concerned." Moe said. "I'm not going to comment with any specificity about it. I think it's inappropriate to do so."
In a statement issued through his attorneys Friday, Means said he had made "a significant administrative mistake that was compounded by my lack of attention to personal financial details."
He said his mistake involved "a complete misunderstanding" on his part, compounded by "miscommunications" between himself and university employees and vendors, which resulted in his wife's travel expenses being "inadvertently" applied to the golf department budget instead of his personal credit cards.
Means said he has repaid the university in full for the $2,852 worth of tickets plus $350 for meals. The audit found that seven of the tickets were used by his then-fiancee and now wife, and another ticket was used by his daughter.
"I had absolutely no intention of attempting to deceive or defraud my employer. Period!" Means said in his statement.
According to the audit, Means was warned by the men's athletic department's business manager last September that prior approval was needed for spousal travel to be reimbursed. Means told auditors "that because he thought his family's travel costs would be charged to his personal account, he never requested permission for them to travel with the team."
In his statement, Means said his communications with Moe about the subject "apparently decreased his confidence in my candor and integrity, and thereby effectively destroyed the trust and support that is necessary between a head coach and his athletic director. ... I understand the decision maker's decision, although I certainly disagree, and I believe he understands mine."
During Means' tenure, the Gophers made eight straight appearances in the NCAA golf tournament. In the past six seasons, Minnesota has played in five NCAA finals.
"I think John has built an outstanding program, and he should be recognized for that," Moe said
Means said he wants to keep working with youth and golf. He said one of his dreams is "to build a state-of-the-art golf learning center."
The audit also found that the golf program may have committed a secondary NCAA violation for having too many coaches. The NCAA limits schools to no more than two paid golf coaches.
Lee Deitrick is listed as a volunteer assistant coach, but the audit found that the university had made five payments to Deitrick since February 1998. A November 1998 invoice from Deitrick "indicated he was paid a consulting fee in addition to travel expense reimbursement."
The university has reported the possible violation to the NCAA.
Minnesota already is under probation imposed by the NCAA because of the academic cheating scandal in its men's basketball program, which led to the ouster of coach Clem Haskins in 1999 and the downfall of several administrators. And the school fired women's basketball coach Cheryl Littlejohn in May after an internal investigation alleged 12 violations, included paying a player between $200 and $300, interfering with a university investigation into other alleged violations and holding unauthorized practices. The NCAA is investigating and could impose additional sanctions.
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