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Embattled Haskins agrees to buyout for $1.5 million

MINNEAPOLIS -- Clem Haskins agreed Friday to a $1.5 million buyout of his contract with Minnesota, even though university investigators have found no evidence implicating the basketball coach in an academic fraud scandal.

University president Mark Yudof said it is "extremely likely" that fraud did occur and said a change was necessary to restore confidence in the university."It is clear that on his watch, substantial, numerous violations of our academic conduct code have occurred," Yudof said during a news conference. "We thought it's time for a management change."

Haskins will step down Wednesday, three years before his contract was to expire. He compiled a 240-165 record in 13 seasons, including a trip to the NCAA tournament Final Four in 1997.

Haskins has been under pressure since March, when former tutor Jan Gangelhoff said she did more than 400 pieces of course work for at least 20 basketball players from 1993 to 1998.

Since March, the investigation has widened to include accusations of improper payments, travel irregularities and improper relationships between the team and university police investigating possible crimes involving players.

Haskins asserted his innocence when the scandal broke on the eve of the Gophers' first-round NCAA game against Gonzaga. Four players were made ineligible for that game, which Minnesota lost.

He has maintained since then that he had no knowledge of wrongdoing. Phone calls to his suburban Minneapolis house Friday afternoon went unanswered.

Haskins issued a brief statement saying he had been honored to coach the Gophers and would continue to support them. The statement made no mention of the allegations or investigation.

Interim reports from investigators make it "extremely likely there will be numerous findings of academic fraud, primarily and entirely connected to the writing of papers for students," Yudof said.

Though no evidence links Haskins to fraud, "it is clear that public confidence in the academic integrity of the university has been eroded by the allegations. In order to restore that public confidence, a change in leadership is warranted," Yudof said.

The university is expected to report on its investigation to the NCAA in September. Yudof said earlier this week that the university was likely to sanction itself if its investigation showed "slam dunk" wrongdoing. Enforcement records show the NCAA generally is less harsh on universities that deal decisively with rule-breaking.

Yudof acknowledged that people, including Gangelhoff, say Haskins knew about academic cheating by players. But he said "when it comes to direct, provable evidence today -- maybe not for all time, but for today -- that evidence does not exist."