Saturday, March 9, 2013

U made mistakes, but so did Star Tribune

The University of Minnesota is committed to being transparent and accountable. When we fall short, we correct it. Recent Star Tribune news and editorial coverage of Gopher women’s basketball coach Pam Borton’s contract extension did not report all of the facts and made an unfair insinuation (“Borton deal puts U on the defensive,”March 1, and “A contract blunder for U athletics,” March 5 editorial).
Last summer, the university negotiated a two-year contract extension with coach Borton. Did the university publicize Borton’s extension with a news release or press conference? No. And for that, shame on us. Borton’s extension received final approval just before the July 4 holiday, after Joel Maturi stepped down, and during the athletics department leadership transition. Publicity was simply overlooked.
As further evidence that the university did not intend to hide Borton’s contract, as implied by the Star Tribune, we also did not issue a news release about six other contract renewals last summer, including for wrestling coach of the year J Robinson and national champion women’s hockey coach Brad Frost. Holding us accountable for our mistake in not publicizing the contracts is fair game. But it is simply not fair, especially given evidence to the contrary, to imply the university intentionally tried to mislead the public or conceal information in this matter.
In its coverage, the Star Tribune also failed to report that under the state’s Data Practices Act it requested and received Borton’s original contract and the extension in October 2012. However, the Star Tribune did not report the extension until now — five months after the information was provided.
The bottom line: The Star Tribune should hold itself to the same standards it is expecting from us.

Eric W. Kaler 
The writer is president of the University of Minnesota.

Good letter, fair complaints. There is a new and more aggressive sheriff in town. We'll see how this pans out. 

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