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University of Minnesota to review practices of athletic program

MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota will examine athletic department spending, employment practices and workplace culture in the wake of athletic director Norwood Teague's resignation.

MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota will examine athletic department spending, employment practices and workplace culture in the wake of athletic director Norwood Teague’s resignation.
The plans emerged from a Tuesday meeting between University President Eric Kaler and Dean Johnson, chairman for the Board of Regents.
“We want to do this to bring transparency and confidence back to the people of Minnesota,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the ‘U’ routinely conducts an internal audit when a top administrator leaves. In this case, they’ll also hire someone outside the institution to audit the athletic program, from travel expenses to recruitment practices.
Teague resigned Friday in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation into his behavior with two female colleagues.
Johnson said the school also will hire an employment attorney to look into the culture and employment practices of the department. “We want to look at the entire department,” he said. “We want a culture of zero tolerance when it comes to sexual harassment.”
The athletic department issued a statement Tuesday evening saying, “We welcome outside evaluation of our department and our practices. If a third party can identify ways in which we need to improve, we appreciate and invite those recommendations.”
A spokesman said the statement was unattributable to one individual. Beth Goetz is the interim athletic director.
On Tuesday, the ‘U’ acknowledged paying former senior athletic director Regina Sullivan $175,000 in April 2014 to settle a complaint filed through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Teague, who left Virginia Commonwealth University to be Minnesota’s AD in June 2012, fired Sullivan and fellow senior associate AD Jason LaFrenz in October 2012, describing it as an organizational shift.
In her complaint, Sullivan said Teague re-assigned her from overseeing men’s basketball, putting her in charge exclusively of women’s sports, and fired her “because I was a woman taking strong positions on issues affecting women.”
A message left for Sullivan, now a senior associate athletic director at Northeastern University, was not returned.
Johnson, who is on the regents litigation review committee, said he was familiar with Sullivan’s complaint but not the settlement. Her accusations didn’t concern him enough to warrant a closer look at Teague’s performance.
“It didn’t seem that it was to the point that it needed further explanation,” he said, adding that at the time, he hadn’t yet heard similar complaints from others.
VCU on Tuesday acknowledged paying former women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham $125,000 in July 2012 to settle a complaint, a month after Teague left.
“There was an agreement reached between the university and Beth Cunningham,” a VCU spokesman said in a statement. “However, the nature of the agreement cannot be discussed due to the language of the agreement.”
A University of Minnesota report released publicly last week revealed that Teague groped two university employees and sent lewd text messages to one. During a news conference announcing the resignation on Friday, Kaler told reporters an investigation into Teague’s behavior was terminated upon his resignation.
“We pursued this aggressively; we’ve parted ways,” he said.
Since then, Star Tribune Gophers basketball reporter Amelia Rayno accused Teague, 49, of harassing her. In a first-person article published Sunday night, she described groping and inappropriate text messages, mirroring the incidents that led to Teague’s resignation.
In response to Rayno’s story, Kaler released a statement.
“We take all reports of sexual harassment very seriously, and we encourage anyone else who experienced such actions to come forward,” he said.
Kaler encouraged those who may have felt victimized to call the school’s confidential UReport service at 1-866-294-8680 or online at ureport.ethicspoint.com.
In January, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into the Minnesota athletic department’s compliance with Title IX, the federal law requiring all schools receiving federal funding to offer equal opportunities to men and women.
That investigation, centered on the U’s $190 million Athletes Village expansion plan, is ongoing. The school is $80 million short of being able to start the project, under its own guidelines, but has insisted it will break ground in the fall.
Erin Buzuvis, a Western New England University law professor who writes about Title IX, said in an email that she doubted Teague’s behavior would affect the federal investigation.
Pioneer Press staff writer Tad Vezner contributed to this report.

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