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Gophers Back in the News

KMSP Fox 9 News followed up on their earlier story about underage Minnesota hockey players drinking at Blarney's Pub with a new story on Gopher players taking recruits to bars.

This time around, Fox seemed to have learned from their mistakes and tried to show more serious violations, specifically Gopher players taking recruits to the bar, and bar owner Mike Mulrooney's relationship with Gopher players.

Taking recruits to bars is a serious allegation, but in the end, it's probably more of the same. One of the recruits shown(who didn't drink, and ended up driving a less than sober Gopher home) has already chosen to go to another school. I don't know anything about the status of the other player, but I'm guessing that if he hasn't committed to a school yet, the NCAA could force Minnesota to cut off contact with him.

The players involved should probably be punished for this. They were selected as representatives for the university and then blatantly broke the rules that they agreed to. That has to be something the university takes very seriously, especially after they enacted rules specifically for this type of situation.

The issues with players drinking in bars and taking recruits could be the least of the Gophers problems though. The KMSP report shows bar owner Mike Mulrooney received free tickets from Gopher players while a former Blarney's employee says that Gopher hockey players received free drinks and reduced tabs from Mulrooney.

The GopherBlog correctly points out that MulRooney's free tickets aren't a big deal, other than that it ties Mulrooney even closer to the Gopher program than already that. GopherBlog cites the rule about players giving complimentary tickets to people. That rule is in place so that schools know what type of people players are letting into the arena. The university probably should have been a little more skeptical and looked into things more when a local bar owner started showing up on the complimentary ticket list.

The real problem for the Gophers is players receiving free drinks. Amateurism is one of the NCAA's primary concerns, and if Gopher players are receiving extra benefits deserves serious penalties. You can try to explain it away anyway you want, but it looks very likely that the Gopher players broke those rules. If the University of Minnesota won't punish the players, I think the NCAA needs to step in and do something. Clearly they're not going to get the death penalty, and they're probably not going to get banned from the postseason or lose scholarships, but I guarantee that the players involved were made well aware of the rules and they willingly chose to break them. The NCAA needs to investigate what exactly went on and punish those players appropriately.

Once again, the person that comes out looking the worst in this is bar owner Mike Mulrooney. As if the balding 40+ year old who befriends 20 something hockey players wasn't creepy enough, there comes a quote like this:

Lori Olson/Former Blarney Bartender: "He called the hockey players: Gods."

Ummmmm, ew? He sounds like he's about a step away from Googling Tim Tebow Shirtless.

The charges and evidence are really starting to pile up against the Gophers. Things still aren't bad enough for them to receive serious, serious punishement, but I think they've also become too serious for the Gophers to brush away like they did with the last investigation.