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Notre Dame fiasco sparks
continuing bio controversies

By Nancy Armour, The Associated Press
Friday July 05, 2002

From simple clerical errors to half-truths and long-forgotten lies, some coaches and athletic administrators aren’t always what they say they are. 

College degrees were worked on but not completed. Letters claimed to be earned in a sport were never received. Awards are made to sound better than they really were. 

“I hope most of them are just honest mistakes, not an ethical problem,” said Wally Groff, the athletic director at Texas A&M. “I’d like to believe that.” 

Last December, George O’Leary left Notre Dame in disgrace after admitting he’d lied about his academic and athletic credentials. Since then, resumes and biographical sketches have been scrutinized as never before, and at least a half-dozen coaches and athletic directors — even the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee — have lost their jobs. 

Everyone is suspect. Athletic directors as well as graduate assistants. And at universities around the country, the once-informal process of updating existing bios now often comes with official forms to be kept on file. 

“I guess we just have to appreciate it comes with the territory,” said John Heisler, associate athletic director at Notre Dame. “You would have to have your head in the sand to not understand why there are questions being asked.” 

In athletics, practical experience has always mattered more than fancy credentials. A resume was something to be passed around at the introductory news conference and then forgotten. 

“We’ve gone on the honor system that, ‘Yes, you looked at this and yes, it’s accurate,”’ said Pete Moore, associate director of athletic communications at Syracuse and the president of the College Sports Information Directors of America. 

“What has happened has caused all of us to re-evaluate and take a look at how we acquire and maintain that information.” 

The challenge now for schools and organizations is avoiding becoming the next headline. At the annual convention of sports information directors earlier this week, one seminar was called “The Resume Crisis.” 

Most schools now have coaches sign forms acknowledging they’ve read their biographical sketches and that the information was accurate. 

Within days of being hired as Notre Dame’s head coach, O’Leary admitted he’d lied on his resume. He’d never lettered in football at New Hampshire as he claimed, and he didn’t earn a master’s degree from New York University. 

If it had happened at any other school, it might not have sparked such a furor. But this was Notre Dame, where the spotlight is bright and far reaching. 

While newspapers throughout the country scrambled to examine the resumes of the coaches they cover, many athletic directors told their coaches and staffs to reread their bios — and this time, do it closely. 

Still, major inaccuracies kept coming. In May, USOC president Sandy Baldwin was forced to resign after admitting she’d lied about the academic credentials on her resume. 

The head football coach at tiny Allegheny College was forced out. Charles Harris stepped down the day before he was to be introduced as Dartmouth’s new athletic director after questions were raised about his resume. Last week, an assistant at Richmond was fired, reportedly because of an inaccurate bio. 

“Even though there’s been these high-profile cases, it’s really amazing to me there hasn’t been a stop,” Moore said. 

As the embarrassments mounted, so did the schools’ wariness. Tom Collen was hired as Vanderbilt’s women’s basketball coach May 1 after a successful stint at Colorado State that included a 129-33 record and four trips to the NCAA tournament in five years. 

When Vanderbilt checked his credentials, records at Miami of Ohio listed one master’s degree with two majors. Collen gave Vanderbilt athletic director Todd Turner a resume with only one master’s degree, and said he’d never presented his credentials differently. 

But then the resume Collen gave Colorado State in 1997 was found — showing two master’s degrees. Vanderbilt gave him the choice to resign or be fired. He quit May 2. 

“He portrayed it in such a way here that his resume had always been accurate,” Turner said at the time. “That really was a difficult thing for us to deal with.” 

A month later, Miami discovered a mistake in its records. Collen had, in fact, earned two master’s degrees. 

Two months after the debacle, Collen is still without a job. 

“It’s just going to take some time to sort it all out,” he said from his home in Fort Collins, Colo. “That’s about the only statement I’d like to make right now.”