Minn. to detail athletics department investigation

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, December 8, 2015

ST. PAUL — Two examinations of the University of Minnesota’s athletics department will become public Tuesday, offering new information about a sports program dealing with upheaval from director Norwood Teague’s resignation after he was accused of sexual harassment.

The findings being released in conjunction with a special Board of Regents meeting include a university-conducted financial audit of the department and an external probe of the department’s culture, hiring practices and handling of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Teague’s abrupt departure in August came after two high-level university administrators reported he sexually harassed them at a senior leadership retreat weeks earlier. His deputy, Mike Ellis, stepped down last month after being placed on leave in September when complaints against him surfaced. And there have been questions about how allegations of sexual misconduct by football players in recent years were handled.

Email newsletter signup

Regents Chairman Dean Johnson told The Associated Press on Monday that school officials hope the report will detail “anything broken, improper, illegal. You name it, the whole list of sins.” He said it’s an accountability step aimed at rebuilding trust.

“It’s extremely important because in many respects, the Department of Athletics is a very visible face of the university. And in light of what has occurred with the Teague situation and other incidents, we need to gain the confidence of the public back,” he said.

The investigation could clear the air around the department, which has a $100 million annual budget. Though they had to borrow money to get the project going, the Gophers recently broke ground on a fancy sports facilities project featuring new places for the football and basketball teams to practice.

But the findings could become yet another blemish for a school that endured a massive academic fraud scandal in men’s basketball in 1999 and has struggled for national relevance in football and basketball for decades. The Gophers last went to the Rose Bowl in 1962, the longest absence among the 12 teams who joined the Big Ten prior to 2014.

The outside investigation was done by Minneapolis employment law attorney Karen Schanfield and former federal prosecutor Joseph Dixon. They were charged with reviewing all allegations of sexual harassment against Teague, other senior leaders and anyone connected to the athletics department — and what was done about them. They also examined Teague’s hiring in 2012 and why the vetting process didn’t turn up discrimination complaints while he was at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The cost of the Schanfield-Dixon investigation hasn’t been disclosed. University spokesman Evan Lapiska said an update will come Tuesday but that the focus to this point was “on ensuring the time and resources necessary to conduct a thorough review.”

The financial audit was in the works before Teague stepped down but was sped up, with a special emphasis placed on activities surrounding Teague.