Even if Taborn didn't suspect that any of the papers turned in by Haskins's players had been written by others, it strains credulity to suggest that no one else on Minnesota's faculty raised an eyebrow at players' uncharacteristically gemlike work. Even though Gangelhoff says Haskins told her to "dummy down" the papers she prepared, she wrote many at a highly sophisticated level, often on arcane topics that were of interest to her (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and American Indians and Should Hawaii's Endangered Birds Be Saved? were the titles of two papers), not the players. A number of her papers were written for players enrolled in General College, Minnesota's remedial division. Some of the papers were recycled through the same class taught by the same professor in previous years.
Given the realities of campus politics and the power that department heads, deans and other higher-ups have to make even a tenured professor's life unpleasant, a faculty member wouldn't have to be in the athletic department's pocket to decide to look the other way upon encountering a player who was cheating. As one professor told SI in explaining his reluctance to raise a red flag over a suspect paper, "Who wants to be the guy who costs us the star basketball player?" Adds Lashbrook, "If you're viewed as somebody against athletics, it could affect your career climb on that campus and even your job placement somewhere else because athletics is so powerful. The only successful whistle-blowers in college sports are the referees." So much for ivory-tower idealism.
Professors often feel pressure not to dampen the emotional and financial support for the university generated by a successful team such as Haskins's, which has not only won 59% of its games and gone to the NCAA tournament six times over the last 13 seasons but has also put millions of dollars into athletic department coffers. Ponder for a moment the remarkable lack of outrage in Minnesota over Gangelhoff's allegations. Governor Jesse Ventura set the tone, calling the Pioneer Press stories sensationalistic and offering a simple suggestion for eliminating future academic scandals: "Why not let kids go to college and just be athletes when they're there? No classes. Let them simply play."
"It's like the Clinton-Lewinsky deal," says Allen Sack, coauthor of College Athletes for Hire and a sports management professor at the University of New Haven (Conn.) who played on Notre Dame's 1966 national championship football team. "The economy's going great, so we overlook a moral problem. Same in college sports: When your team's winning, you put your outrage on hold."
Sander Latts did. Two years ago Latts, an English professor who taught in the General College, had Gophers forward Courtney James in a course called People and Problems. During the NCAA tournament, James—who, according to Latts, usually had either skipped the class or walked out of it midway through the hour—approached Latts and explained that he needed to improve his standing in the class to maintain his eligibility. Latts, a longtime fan of Minnesota basketball, made a concession. "I said, 'If you write a good paper, I'll count that instead of the six papers you should have [already] written during the semester.' "
A few days later, after the Gophers had won the NCAA Midwest Regional in San Antonio to earn their first Final Four berth, James submitted a paper on the Fair Housing Act that Latts calls "one of the 10 best papers I've received in 40 years of teaching." Says Latts, "I had never seen a paper turned around that quickly, even from my graduate students." He says he talked to James and expressed surprise that he was able to write such an impressive paper in a hotel room during the same weekend he participated in two of the biggest games of his college career. According to Latts, James responded, "I stayed in my room while everyone was out partying."
Latts says he raised his suspicions with professor Norman Chervany, a liaison between the athletic department and the faculty. Latts says he never heard back from Chervany—who has traveled with Haskins's team various times in his role as liaison—and decided not to press the issue. "I couldn't prove it," says the 64-year-old Latts, "and I really didn't want to put my head on the chopping block, so to speak." (Chervany told SI that no professor has ever come to him questioning the work of a basketball player.) While James was never confronted with the accusations of plagiarism, that summer he was convicted of fifth-degree assault against his girlfriend and left school. James is the player who at first confirmed to the Pioneer Press that Gangelhoff wrote papers for him and then recanted.
Donahue says that in 1994 she got a call from Victoria Coifman, an assistant professor of African-American studies, who complained that guard Town-send Orr's attendance was so shoddy that Coifman had removed his name from class records. Donahue was aghast when Coifman called her back a short time later. "[She] said that she and the student had come to an 'agreement,' and she said, 'I don't think that this needs to go any further,' " says Donahue. "I looked at her as a friendly faculty member to the athletic department, and I understood that by 'reaching an agreement' she meant that the athlete was going to get another chance." Coifman says, "I don't remember [the incident], but it could have happened."
Several athletic department staff members describe yet another incident in which a male basketball player stole a female athlete's paper, photocopied it, crossed out her name and handed in the paper as his own work. The professor, having received the same paper twice, decided that both students would receive failing grades. The female athlete said she then got a menacing note from the basketball player. It read, says Donahue, to whom the young woman read the note, "If you tell anybody, me and my buddies are going to beat the s—- out of you." Frightened but armed with her research notes, she confronted the professor and received a passing grade. Still, neither she nor the professor made any formal complaint against the basketball player.
According to SI's sources, Haskins has helped create a climate in which professors are reluctant to step forward. In 1994 he showed his clout with academic administrators by gaining approval for a change that, in effect, removed men's basketball from the jurisdiction of the university's academic-support system and essentially put Haskins in charge of his players' tutors. Only in '97 with Minnesota up for NCAA accreditation review and Haskins's players consistently turning in the worst grade point average of any Gophers team—as low as a 1.64, a solid D, one semester, according to Donahue—were the basketball players' tutors and academic counselors folded back into the university system.