2000Beat Reporting

'Experiment': Haskins sought counselor's move to athletic staff

By: 
George Dohrmann
Staff Writer
March 10, 1999

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How could an office manager in the University of Minnesota's academic counseling unit write papers and do take-home exams for basketball players for five years without being detected?

The answer, according to the university's retired academic counseling director, Elayne Donahue, stems from a pivotal decision made by top athletic department officials in October 1994 that took away any checks and balances for academic help for basketball players.


The decision was done at basketball coach Clem Haskins' request and approved by then-athletic director McKinley Boston. It moved Alonzo Newby, the academic counselor assigned to men's basketball, out of the university's academic counseling department and shifted him to the men's athletic department.

Of 22 sports at the university, the basketball team was the only one whose academic counselor did not report to Donahue.

The move -- billed initially as an "experiment" to better help academically at-risk players, according to internal documents obtained by the   Pioneer Press -- mirrored the arrangement Haskins had at Western Kentucky from 1980 to '86. Donahue said Haskins began asking for an academic counselor independent of her department when he was hired in 1986.

Donahue can't say definitively that Newby's move allowed her office manager, Jan Gangelhoff, to secretly tutor basketball players and do their course work in violation of department rules, but said: "There is no doubt in my mind that there was a lack of institutional control."

"This isn't about Jan, nor is it about Alonzo," Donahue said. "It's about a system that allows it to happen."

But Boston said, "We take the academic responsibility of our student athletes very seriously."


Separate departments

Unlike most other schools in the Big Ten, the Minnesota men's athletic department and the university's academic support arm are separate divisions. Athletic director Mark Dienhart heads men's athletics, and the academic counseling unit has its own director. Donahue ran the unit for 15 years, from 1983 to '98, until her retirement last June. John Blanchard, the head of academic counseling at the University of North Carolina, replaced Donahue in January. Both positions report to Boston, former athletic director and now vice president in charge of athletics and student development.

University officials decided separate departments were ideal shortly after an incident in 1986 when three basketball players were accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Madison, Wis.

"That forced a lot of change at the university and in the athletic department," said Donahue, who before 1986 reported to directors in both the men's and women's athletic departments.

The structure, however, came into question in a Nov. 12, 1993, academic audit done by Norm Chervany, a faculty representative to men's athletics.

"The availability of quality tutors for specific needs" was one of three problem areas, Chervany reported in his audit. He quoted academic counselor Newby as saying: "I cannot hire appropriate tutoring." At the end of the audit, Chervany suggested men's basketball could be used "to experiment with new designs" in the academic support area.

Seven months later, at a June 29, 1994, meeting of the Assembly Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, athletic director Dienhart raised the possibility the basketball program would be treated differently.

"The (basketball) department is looking at its approach in dealing with at-risk athletes, particularly student athletes of color," Dienhart said "The basketball program will potentially be used as a model for dealing with these athletes and to deal with the noted tension (between basketball and the academic counseling unit)," according to minutes of the ACIA meeting. The ACIA is a committee of faculty members often consulted on academic issues pertaining to athletes.

Donahue acknowledged her relationship with Haskins was strained.

"I was in charge of academic counseling, but Alonzo was told differently by Clem," Donahue said. "(Newby) thought he was independent. He looked for his budget, and he didn't have a budget. He didn't understand why he had to get his actions cleared by me. And, he had less understanding the longer he was there."

Part of the problem, Donahue said, was that Boston, then Minnesota's athletic director, clearly sided with the basketball program.

"Before Mac (replaced Rick Bay as) athletic director, I always felt I had the support of central administration and the faculty," she said. "That gave me strength and gave me the authority or power to do something, because people backed me up. But when (Boston was hired as director) that disappeared.

"Boston and (former university vice president Jim) Infante and some of the faculty who were then on (the ACIA) would say: `Elayne, when are you going to try and get along with Clem?' And that was the response I would get any time I reported something."

Donahue said tension and "difference in philosophies" between her and Boston and Haskins led to Chervany's second review of the program in the fall of 1994 and his recommendation that Newby be moved from academic counseling into men's athletics. Boston endorsed Chervany's recommendation in a memo dated Oct. 11, 1994. In that document, Boston wrote that Newby's new "reporting relationship recognizes the unique needs and circumstances surrounding the highly visible and sometimes `at-risk' student athletes in the basketball program."

That was an excuse, Donahue said.

"Football has `at-risk' student-athletes who are high-profile, but they never asked to have their counselor report to men's athletics," said Donahue. She also insisted that her academic counseling unit never ignored the needs of "at-risk" students, but, "I still believed they should do their own work."

However, she signed off on Newby's move. "I said it was wrong, but personally I was overjoyed because I had been asked to oversee something I had no authority over," Donahue said. "And I think they liked that I was no longer looking over (Newby's shoulder)."

Boston said his department merely wanted to try a different management approach.

"It was more a personnel issue," he said. "We had some difficulties and inappropriate communications. We opted to sit down and look at a new experience."

Donahue was still in charge of approving tutors for men's basketball. She said Newby turned in an abnormally low number of potential tutors, about one a quarter, and that she approved all of them.

What Donahue didn't realize was that her office manager, Gangelhoff, was tutoring basketball players and, Gangelhoff says and some players have confirmed, doing their research papers and take-home exams, in violation of department rules.

Gangelhoff said she was approached by Newby and "felt out" about tutoring athletes.

"I was in the right place at the right time," she said.

When asked how she avoided getting caught, Gangelhoff said the new structure made it possible.

"We put up roadblocks, and Alonzo going into men's athletics was the biggest one," she said.

Donahue was surprised by the scope of Gangelhoff's allegations. "I am, as funny as it sounds, broken-hearted," Donahue said. "I trusted her and, though I had my suspicions, I never thought it was so long-lasting and so much. I feel like I was really duped."

"Other than what tutors Alonzo submitted, I had zero knowledge of what was going on in men's basketball, because that is what Clem wanted," Donahue said.

Men's athletics initially seemed pleased with the new chain of command.

In a review of men's basketball by Chervany dated July 5, 1996, he wrote that "it is certainly not the most desirable of situations. But it works, and it works better than the arrangements of the past from Elayne's perspective and from coach Haskins' perspective."

Chervany also suggested that eventually money from men's basketball would be "carved out" so that Newby can "secure tutors."

But in that same memorandum, Chervany wrote of political science professor Bill Flanigan's concern that "student-athletes are feeling some pressure to take courses not directly related to the academic programs to raise GPAs or maintain eligibility."

Chervany explained it as student athletes counseling themselves. -- It may, in fact, not be a product of the system and the influence of the coaches at all."

But a little more than a year later, in fall of 1997, the athletic department changed its mind. Chervany recommended Newby be put back into the academic services unit under the charge of Donahue. Boston said in a memo to Donahue written in October of that year that he hoped Donahue would be open "to do some things in a new way."

Donahue said there was another motive for the change. The NCAA is due to review Minnesota's athletic department for accreditation this year.

"The NCAA would not have looked fondly on Alonzo and men's basketball being the only sport outside of academic counseling," Donahue said. "It would have been obvious then that men's basketball is too much of a controlled society."

Boston said: "We decided it wouldn't work. Communication wasn't as good as we hoped. That was probably the major reason."


Tutor for a quarter

Gangelhoff's secret role as tutor became official for one quarter, the winter of 1998.

She had resigned as office manager in January 1998 and was no longer prohibited by department rules from being a tutor. Newby asked Donahue if Gangelhoff could tutor Antoine Broxsie until the end of that school year, June 30. Newby said the player needed help immediately and thought it would be best for the player to keep the same tutor throughout the school year.

"I could buy the argument they needed continuity through winter, but spring quarter (the player) had the ability, I believed, to adjust to a new tutor; he would be adjusting to new faculty members," Donahue said.

So Donahue approved Gangelhoff through the winter quarter, but told Newby that Gangelhoff could not work with Newby in the spring, a decision athletic director Dienhart, associate athletic director Jeff Schemmel and the university's director of NCAA compliance Chris Shoemann endorsed.

Donahue said she had a conversation with assistant basketball coach Charles Cunningham about a month later that led her to believe the limitation she had placed on Gangelhoff was not being taken seriously.

"Cunningham implied in that conversation that Jan would continue to work with (Broxsie) in the spring. I said Jan wouldn't be working with (Broxsie). He said, `We coaches haven't decided yet.' I said, `You coaches don't decide.' And then he said something like, `You better watch how you are talking here.' "

Donahue said she told Dienhart, Schemmel and Shoemann about that conversation and then sent a memo to Boston dated Feb. 23.

"I am becoming more and more frustrated and need your help," she wrote. "I have been under the impression when men's basketball was re-assigned to academic counseling that there would be some effort made to enforce the new reporting lines.

"However, as time goes by, it is becoming more apparent that I am just a front for whatever is going on in men's basketball. This leaves me in the vulnerable position of being responsible for something (i.e., whatever is going on in the men's basketball program) that I have no control over. That is unfair, and I believe unethical. -- I do not intend to have my reputation sullied by the actions of employees over whom I have no control."

Boston responded in a memo nine days later. It said that he had met with Cunningham and Haskins "to hear their assessment of the effectiveness of the current program" and Donahue's claims. "Both Clem and Charles acknowledged that some adjustments need to be made. They assure me that they are in the process of determining how best to accomplish these changes," Boston wrote.

In May, Donahue said she heard from a member of her staff that Gangelhoff was tutoring Broxsie and another player at the home of Gangelhoff's sister. Gangelhoff confirmed both allegations and produced course work she had done for the players dated during that spring quarter. Donahue twice asked Newby in e-mails if Gangelhoff was tutoring players, and both times his response was: "Jan is not on basketball's payroll."

"Notice he wouldn't say that Jan wasn't tutoring, he would only say that she wasn't on basketball's payroll," said Donahue, who sent copies of those e-mails to Dienhart, Schemmel and Schoemann.

Boston said he spoke with Newby on Tuesday and that he denied Gangelhoff tutored players when she was office manager.

"If she was tutoring players, I'm not so sure someone should have known other than the person responsible, other than the academic counselor (Newby)," Boston said.

Study finds fault

Meanwhile, Fred Amram, a professor of communication of creativity at the university, was assigned to do a study of academic counselors as part of the Academic Counseling Review Committee, a group that reviewed the relationship between counselors and faculty. Included in his two-page report -- submitted on April 16, 1998, to Boston's assistant, Laurie Reich -- were interviews with four college advisers, two each from the College of Liberal Arts and the General College.

In the report, Amram wrote that all four advisers indicated that "one sport was not collaborating well and not counseling students toward appropriate academic goals." The advisers accused a counselor of preparing inadequate year-long plans, of recommending courses "which are frequently inappropriate for the student's major and often not permissible (e.g. 3000- and 5000-level courses for ill-prepared first-year students)."

Amram wrote that "interviewees suggested that this counselor be structurally and physically integrated into Academic Counseling." Donahue, who considered Amram an ally in her battles with Haskins and Boston over men's basketball's actions, said Amram was talking about basketball and academic counselor Newby.

"I believe, and other people believed, there were people like Jan long before there was Jan," Donahue said, "that there were always people who would do the players' work, which we could never prove. They were probably not on the payroll either.

"Everything in basketball was secret. The players didn't participate in the learning center and didn't work in the computer center. -- That is how Clem wanted it. And (Boston) lets Clem do whatever he wants."

Beat Reporting 2000