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Beginning of the end
Minnesota begins negotiations for Haskins' departure
Posted: Thursday June 10, 1999 08:18 AM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The University of Minnesota has begun negotiating for head coach Clem Haskins' departure from the men's basketball program.
"I have authorized university general counsel Mark Rotenberg to have some discussions with Mr. Haskins' attorney," University President Mark Yudof said Wednesday.
The university's Board of Regents was expected to meet in a closed-door session Thursday to discuss a potential buyout of Haskins' contract, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported. If Haskins is terminated early, he could receive as much as $1.2 million, the contract stipulates.
Rotenberg met face-to-face once with Haskins' attorney, Ronald Zamansky, and the two have talked by telephone several times. Yudof said he gave Rotenberg the authority to talk with Zamansky last week.
"I am not going to characterize the substance of the discussions," Yudof said.
He also would not say what prompted him to authorize the talks now, nor would he comment on any timeline for further action.
Various factors may be pressuring the university to move quickly. Yudof will be out of the country July 10-23 for a working trip to Europe and the Middle East. Haskins' contract includes a clause that would increase his buyout by $74,299 if he is released after July 1. And basketball recruitment could be hampered if the coach's status remains uncertain.
Yudof would not say specifically that the talks are intended to end Haskins' 10-year contract with the university two years early.
Last week, Yudof contacted most of the regents and asked if any of them objected to discussions with Zamansky. Apparently, Yudof got the green light.
Rotenberg, who returned from an out-of-town trip Wednesday night, would not comment about the content of the talks, nor would he say whether they mean Haskins definitely would not return next season as coach. He characterized the talks as being "businesslike and professional in tone."
Yudof said the university has not started looking for a replacement.
Zamansky declined comment Wednesday night.
Haskins, who has referred all calls to his attorney, is in a Minneapolis hospital following knee replacement surgery on Tuesday.
The coach is accused of tolerating and facilitating academic fraud among men's basketball players, misusing booster club money and intervening on behalf of athletes accused of sexual misconduct.
Former university employee Jan Gangelhoff of Danbury, Wis., said she did course work for at least 21 players from 1993-98, which was confirmed by four players, prompting the university to suspend four other current players from the NCAA Tournament opener against Gonzaga in March.
Haskins has denied any knowledge of academic cheating in his program or improper payments to players.
The coach's contract, signed in 1994 and retroactive to the 1992-93 season, is a 10-year agreement worth an estimated $700,000 annually when all outside income is included. The deal calls for him to receive the remainder of his contract, almost $1.2 million, if he is removed without just cause by June 30.
An unusual provision specifies that if Haskins is terminated with just cause, including NCAA rule violations, he gets a minimum of $348,722.
But proving just cause could be difficult. The contract doesn't list specific employees under Haskins' direct supervision other than assistant coaches "and university employees for whom Haskins is administratively responsible." Thus, under his contract, Haskins is not responsible for the actions of many of the key figures in the scandal.
In addition, no clauses are tied to the team's academic performance, and the full investigation isn't expected to be completed until fall.
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