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Hoop Nightmares

By Jamal K. Greene, Crimson Staff Writer

Clem Haskins should be ashamed of himself. He got caught.

University of Minnesota graduate student Alexandra Goulding revealed on Tuesday that not only had she written a paper for Minnesota basketball player Courtney James, but that Coach Haskins knew about and condoned such antics.

Goulding is the third tutor to admit to substituting her own work for Gophers' scholarship, adding some fatty drops of bacon grease to the raging inferno that is now Minnesota Papergate. The first tutor to come forward, Jan Gangelhoff, claimed to have done 400 assignments for Minnesota basketball players in a six-year span from 1993-1998.

Haskins denies knowledge of the scandal, but it is now his word against that of two grad students who haven't a thing to gain from slander. Anyone who believes Clem, no doubt a bastion of moral probity when it comes to hoops, also believed that Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman, that Reagan did not recall and that Nixon was not a crook.

Everybody does it and everybody did it: birds, bees, Bobby Knight, even those holiest of holies Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and John Thompson. A paper here, a problem set there, no big deal. I don't mean to imply that these coaches condoned academic dishonesty, but to the victors in college basketball, coaches and players alike, go enormous spoils--national fame and fortune, million-dollar contracts, a guaranteed contract on a dream job.

My rudimentary faith in human decency leads me to doubt that most people would murder or steal for money or prestige. But how much would it take to encourage someone to keep his lips sealed over a misdemeanor, to look the other way when the stench of academic dishonesty threatens to foul up a pretty good season? Especially if he knows that the guy on the other bench would sell his own son for a Sweet Sixteen berth (no offense, Mr. Knight).

I would be shocked beyond belief if there were a big-time Division I basketball coach whose players have never cheated and who has never heard a whiff about it. I may be wrong, but then again, I thought Bush would raise taxes all along.

Haskins' program took it to an extreme--Gangelhoff claims to have done work for at least 20 players--and now the inside stuff is hitting the fan. Four players were suspended for the Gophers' NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga, a 75-63 first-round loss that ruined Minnesota's chances as well as many a tournament bracket.

The tutors' claims are under investigation by two law firms hired by the University of Minnesota, and University President Mark Yudof promises swift action if any impropriety is confirmed.

Boxing must be grateful that college basketball's broken nose has stolen the spotlight from its own umpteenth "black eye." These allegations come on the heels of a ruling by a United States District judge striking down as racially biased the NCAA's Proposition 48, which requires certain minimum test scores (qualified by grade point average) in order for freshmen to be eligible for college athletics.

With the lid blown off of the academic dishonesty that everyone on the inside was already aware of, and with nothing to prevent a school from shrugging off any pretense of academic standards in its admission of "students" who might incidentally help its basketball team, college hoops sits on the verge of crisis. Change must happen, and it will.

Some have suggested an end to freshman athletic eligibility, a return to the good ol' days when freshmen spent their first years hitting the books and the practice courts. That would answer the Prop 48 question, but what of cheating?

Paying student-athletes might help. Eliminate basketball scholarships but pay the players. Then academics becomes a matter of remaining enrolled at the school, not meeting NCAA academic requirements. Maybe Courtney James would have written that paper if he knew a "D" would do, rather than a "B."

The stats would show lower GPAs for athletes, but at least they would be learning something. Maybe paying college athletes a salary goes against the spirit of college athletics, but at least then the smoke and mirrors would be raised.

It's not about the grades any more than an academic decathalon is about free throw shooting. Like all else, it is about dollars and cents.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best. All these colleges need to do is tell us to our face.

"The University of Minnesota, founded in the belief that all people are enriched by understanding, is dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth; to the sharing of this knowledge through education for a diverse community; and to the application of this knowledge to benefit the people of the state, the nation, and the world."

...and to winning basketball games.

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