Univ. of Minn. external review did not find 'climate of sexual harassment'

After about 100 interviews and a review of 250,000 pages of documents, an external review of the University of Minnesota’s athletic department spent 743 pages mostly describing a department with no major problems. But the review indicated the department is not perfect, either.

The report did find some cases of inappropriate communications, but did not find a "general climate of sexual harassment or inappropriate sexual conduct."

It noted that many accusations leveled at Norwood Teague following his resignation were not specific and anonymous and that witnesses generally "did not observe" Teague behave in a sexually inappropriate manner.

It added that the university knew of no red flags about Teague's behavior before the senor leadership retreat in July when he was accused of sexual harassment. As for Teague's hire, despite problems at his previous job, investigators concluded the search for Teague was consistent with "similar searches by other Big Ten institutions."

One person who did not participate in the external review: Teague himself. His lawyers and investigators could not come to an agreement about how much information he could see before any interview.

The financial audit of the athletic department was also released today and a majority gave good marks, but said a "stronger culture of compliance" is needed. It also lists expenses that should not have been paid for by the U, including $1,981 for two haircuts, make-up, shoes and a suit for a new employee.

The Board of Regents says they will ask President Eric Kaler to create an action plan in response to external investigation of athletic department. 

University of Minnesota statement

Today, during a special meeting of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents findings were delivered from an external review and an internal financial audit to examine key issues following the resignation of Gopher Athletics Director Norwood Teague.

The reports are publicly available on the Board’s website.

Following the release of these reports, University leaders issued the following statements:

President Eric W. Kaler

“As the stewards of the University, the Board and I are ultimately accountable for the culture, people, policies and practices in place throughout the U of M system.

“Soon after the resignation of the former Gopher Athletics Director, the Board of Regents and I identified issues of concern and acted aggressively to thoroughly investigate the circumstances around his hiring and the events surrounding his departure. The actions taken to address the problem were swift and decisive: changing leadership; committing to an independent, external review; and expediting an internal audit of Gopher Athletics leadership to understand areas of need to improve our Athletics Department and University.

“We were open, transparent and ensured independence for both reports. The findings we received today provide recommendations for improvement and give us confidence that we are on the right track with many steps already taken. They also outline others that will follow in the near future.

“Many of the audit findings do not reflect our values of stewardship and accountability. We have already addressed some of the audit recommendations head-on, and have provided a strong management response that includes increased oversight of all intercollegiate athletics financial operations for a period of time.

“But our work is not done. We are going to spend whatever time is needed to examine the recommendations in the external review and audit, and we will take prompt and decisive action.”

Dean Johnson, Chair, Board of Regents

“I want to thank Schanfield and Dixon and our internal audit team for their comprehensive and thorough reports. It is clear that we can, and must, do better. The Board will work with President Kaler to develop an action plan to address the findings and recommendations in the reports swiftly and decisively. Where policies have been violated, we will take corrective action. Where there are problems, we will fix them.

We hold ourselves accountable for providing the oversight necessary to ensure a Gopher athletics department that reflects Minnesota’s values.”

Beth Goetz, interim director of Gopher Athletics

“The financial audit findings are not consistent with the current values of this athletic department and we are committed to ensuring the department’s philosophy and practices related to financial management are in line with the expectations of the University. We will work with the University and a newly formed oversight committee to implement the audit’s recommendations, strengthen our financial controls and improve our operations.

“We are encouraged that the external review of the athletics department showed no overarching cultural or systemic issues. We look forward to reviewing the findings and recommendations in more detail and are committed to better serving our student-athletes and the University of Minnesota through that feedback.”

As of today, the Athletics Department has taken the following steps, based on the audit recommendations:
• All current employees who were inappropriately reimbursed or received overpayments have repaid the department. Repayment from former employees is also being sought;
• The relationship with Villa 7 has been terminated;
• Eliminated payments to employees through Learfield sports;
• Interim Athletics Director Beth Goetz has already set a new and more appropriate tone at the top regarding financial stewardship; and
The financial oversight committee has already met and is working to strengthen policies and processes, consistent with the audit recommendations

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