Gophers were in two certified events
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Minnesota women's basketball coach on Thursday blamed miscommunication for the team's decision to pull out of the Great Alaska Shootout.
Pam Borton said the school signed up for a second preseason tournament a year ago, not realizing that both the Shootout and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association Classic in Seattle were NCAA-certified tournaments.
"We wouldn't schedule two certified events on purpose and then cancel one of them," Borton said in a telephone interview.
Great Alaska Shootout host Alaska Anchorage, an NCAA Division II school, announced this week that Minnesota had withdrawn. Its late replacement for the Thanksgiving week tournament will be Maryland-Eastern Shore. The field also includes Stanford, Eastern Washington and UAA.
Alaska Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb called the Golden Gophers' move "very unethical" and said the school had had a contract for more than a year. Borton called Cobb's comments "out of context."
Borton said the Shootout contract was made by the previous coaching staff three years ago. The contract with the WBCA Classic was made about a year ago, she said.
"If we played in both of them, we'd have to forfeit all our games next year," Borton said. "Obviously, that doesn't make sense."
She said her school had made inquiries whether the Shootout was a certified tournament but did not receive an answer from Alaska Anchorage. Basketball Travelers, a national company that arranges basketball tournaments, also did not know if the tournament was certified, she said.
Gophers basketball officials last year got busy with the regular and postseason, Borton said, which included a trip to the women's Final Four. Her school probably should have been more aggressive in finding out whether the Shootout was certified, she said.
"I think it was a miscommunication by both schools," Borton said. "I don't want to put to put the blame on anybody."
She acknowledged that the men's Shootout, which last year attracted nationally ranked powers Duke and Purdue, was a certified tournament. Borton said Minnesota found out the women's tournament was certified only a few weeks ago when the NCAA sent out a list.
The WBCA Classic, which will include Washington, South Carolina and the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Nov. 11-15, includes a five-figure penalty for cancellation. The Alaska tournament carries no penalty for dropping out.
"The administration advised us to drop the Alaska tournament," Borton said.
Cobb said Minnesota gave him no reason for dropping out.
"They didn't give me the courtesy of an explanation," he said.
When the Shootout invitation was extended, Minnesota was nowhere near a Top 10 team, he said. Alaska Anchorage wanted the Gophers in the tournament because of the large number of transplanted Minnesotans in Alaska, Cobb said.
"It's just real disturbing for me because we've had them signed up for such a long, long time," he said.
Alaska Anchorage is in the same hockey conference as Minnesota. The men's basketball team will appear in the men's Shootout this year.
"We know that's not normally the way they conduct business," he said.
He said he was offended by Borton's contention that Alaska Anchorage did not reply to inquiries as to the tournament's certification.
"That's just simply not credible," he said. "The first contact we had with them was them telling us they were not coming."
Borton said Minnesota would honor its contract with Alaska Anchorage at a future tournament.
Cobb said another invitation is not likely.
"I don't think we would have an interest at this point," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press