Four Minnesota players were declared ineligible to play in Thursday's first-round NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga because of allegations of academic fraud.
The University of Minnesota started a whirlwind investigation Wednesday to determine whether the four players, including starters Miles Tarver and Kevin Clark, were eligible to play.
"In light of the limited amount of time to investigate the story, we believe there is prima facie evidence to support some of the serious allegations," McKinley Boston, university vice president of student development and athletics, said at a news conference in Minneapolis on Thursday.
"I spoke to Coach (Clem) Haskins at length last night. ... At that time, I advised Coach Haskins that the players would be declared ineligible pending the outcome of the investigation."
Tarver, Clark, Antoine Broxsie and Jason Stanford will not play in Thursday's game.
"We would rather not risk the reputation of the university by playing an ineligible player at this time," Boston said.
The probe by the university's general counsel and its NCAA compliance officer followed a report in Wednesday's Saint Paul Pioneer Press quoting a former university employee as saying she did take-home exams and other course work for the four current players and at least 16 former players.
The newspaper also quoted four former players as confirming that work was prepared for them in possible violation of the student code of conduct and NCAA regulations.
"We don't declare people ineligible just based on an allegation," Jeff Schemmel, senior associate athletic director, said. "We've got to find out on our own what's happening."
The investigation focused on whether Tarver, Clark, Broxsie and Stanford -- the four current players named by the newspaper -- violated NCAA regulations.
| Clem Haskins is short four players in Thursday's opener. (AP)|
"That decision will only be made after we have fully evaluated all the information that we can compile in this short period of time," Chris Schoemann, the university's director of athletic compliance, said Wednesday.
The Minnesota players declined to comment on the allegations.
Haskins, who told the Saint Paul paper that he knew nothing of the specifics of the charges, praised the "character and class" of his players.
"This is a very fast process," Schemmel aid. "I'm sure in the long run a lot of investigating will be done. We're just trying to deal with four athletes right now."
To add to the distractions, Clark suffered a seizure similar to those associated with epilepsy Tuesday on the flight to Seattle.
Clark, a starting guard, was the team's No. 2 scorer at 14.7 points per game. Tarver, who started at forward, led the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game. Both are seniors.
Clark was a junior-college transfer two seasons ago. Tarver was a reserve on the 1997 Final Four team.
Broxsie, a sophomore center, played in all 27 games this season. Stanford, a senior forward, played in 21 games, also as a reserve.
Minnesota star Quincy Lewis, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 23.7 points per game, was not among those implicated. He said the Gophers will have no problem staying focused on the game.
"We're going to go back to the hotel, watch some film, go to bed, get up tomorrow at 7 o'clock, have a pregame meal, come to the arena and get ready to play," Lewis said. "I don't care if the whole city of Seattle falls down, we have to be ready to play. As long as the gym doesn't fall down, then we're going to be there ready to play."
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