Gopher Hockey Under Scrutiny

Allegations of wrongdoing centered around Minnesota head coach Doug Woog intensified over the weekend.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday that Woog concealed an illegal payment to a former player from officials in Minnesota’s athletic department, and that then-assistant coach Bill Butters knew about the payment, and hinted at that knowledge to his superiors, but did not tell them directly. Butters resigned his position in early 1995.

The payment, in the amount of $500, was made to Chris McAlpine allegedly to allow him to finish school after his NCAA eligibility had expired and his scholarship ended. Both Woog and the athletic department have acknowledged the existence of the payment; men’s athletic director Mark Dienhart has ordered an internal investigation of the matter, which is ongoing.

Already, Woog has served a two-game suspension and his program has forfeited one scholarship for the 1997-98 season as a result.

However, the Star Tribune suggests that athletic-department officials had ample warning that a serious infraction had occurred, and failed to adequately investigate the matter at the time.

The violation will be examined by the NCAA after Minnesota completes its review, and further sanctions against Woog and/or the hockey program could be levied.

Asked about the investigation Monday by KSTP-TV (St. Paul), Dienhart hoped that the NCAA would recognize the steps Minnesota has taken.

“We have control of our situation,” Dienhart said. Asked whether the violation could put Woog’s job in jeopardy, Dienhart said, “I’m hopeful that it will not,” but added that his job requires him to look carefully at such infractions.

Although this is Woog’s first significant NCAA violation, he has not been free of controversy. Last season, he was suspended by the WCHA for abusing an official during the conference tournament; also, the Star Tribune has reported several minor incidents, including Woog’s attendance at captain’s practices, and the drinking of beer by players on team trips. Many Gopher players are under the legal drinking age in Minnesota, although Woog says none of those under age were allowed to drink.