Editorial: U of M should tighten reigns on athletics dept.

Published 10:05 am Monday, December 14, 2015

On Tuesday afternoon the University of Minnesota’s governing body officially received a report examining the practices and culture of the athletics department. Hours later, the men’s basketball team was thrashed by South Dakota State.

Gopher partisans are probably more upset by the latter, but the report, instigated by the sexual harassment scandal that toppled athletic director Norwood Teague in August, is not entirely flattering to the university.

Top administrators were doubtless relieved that the outside investigators found no major flaws with the vetting of Teague, who was hired away from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. Nor did the report find any “systemic or pervasive inappropriate behavior in the athletics department when it comes to the treatment of women.”

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That’s an intriguing conclusion, considering Teague’s harassment of two high-ranking administrators; the suspension and later resignation of his top lieutenant. Mike Ellis, after unspecified allegations against Ellis; and the detailed report by a Star Tribune sports reporter of Teague’s misconduct toward her.

That’s quite a bit of smoke for there to be no fire.

Beyond that, the outside investigators concluded that an internal investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against some athletes, apparently football players, should have concluded that the players violated the school’s harassment policy.

A separate financial audit of the athletics department found hundreds of thousands in questionable expenses charged to the university, including booze, luxury hotel rooms, private charters and first-class airline tickets. The audit took particular note of a sweetheart arrangement with Major League Baseball for the use of the university’s football stadium for a concert connected to the 2014 All Star Game; the venue was leased for a fraction of its value and paid for with tickets to the All-Star Game.

The financial shenanigans were shrugged off Tuesday by Teague’s lawyer as typical of big-time college sports and part of a culture that Teague inherited when he took the helm of the U’s athletic department. That may be true, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.


Mankato Free Press, Dec. 9

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