MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Longtime Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson was fired Wednesday after the university said an investigation into an alleged drug ring within the program revealed that he "failed to disclose information regarding drug-related activity" on the team and made unauthorized promises of amnesty to his athletes.
Robinson coached the Gophers for 30 years and led the team to three national championships, carving out a reputation as a hard-charging, outspoken and occasionally combative figure on campus. He enjoyed as much success as any Gophers coach of his era, but was embroiled in a drug scandal this spring when police investigated allegations that more than a dozen wrestlers sold and used the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Police declined to file charges in the case, citing a lack of evidence.
In a letter written to Robinson on Wednesday, new athletic director Mark Coyle said that the coach "disobeyed reasonable directives from me and university to share information regarding drug activities of team members." Coyle also said that Robinson told his wrestlers to turn the drugs in to him and the coach then disposed of those drugs and that during interviews with university investigators, Robinson refused to answer the most important questions asked of him.
"You have not accepted responsibility or expressed remorse for your conduct," Coyle wrote to Robinson. "As a result, I cannot trust you to refrain from such conduct in the future."
The Associated Press left messages for Robinson's agent and attorney seeking comment.
"I do not intend to address each inaccuracy and/or omission in the report because there are far too many," Robinson wrote to the university in a response provided by school officials. "For now, suffice it to say that the report sacrifices accuracy to create a narrative to support a pre-determined outcome to find fault with me and exculpate the university and senior employees in the athletic department."
Robinson denied that he promised his wrestlers amnesty for coming forward to him and said he did comply with university regulations and informed his superiors, including former interim athletic director Beth Goetz, of the drug issues within his team.
He also devised a form of discipline for the wrestlers involved, demanding them to inform their parents of their actions, write an essay about the effects those actions had on themselves, their families and the university and required them to submit to drug testing and a chemical dependency assessment.
Coyle granted that Robinson did inform his superiors of possible drug issues within his team, but said the coach declined to offer all the necessary details in subsequent conversations with university officials.
"He did not fully cooperate with our investigation into the matter," Coyle said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. "He did not meet with us for interviews properly, and when he did, he did not answer some of our most critical questions."
Coyle, who was hired in June after the allegations first surfaced, said he met with Robinson on several occasions to try to get him to offer details on the situation.
"The report is filled with excuses for the university's failure to act and masks the lack of adequate policy guidance and support to assist coaches in addressing situations involving and helping student athletes with drug issues," Robinson wrote.
Assistant coach Brandon Eggum has been named interim coach for the upcoming season.
Robinson has been a lightning rod figure on campus for decades, both for his incredible success in building the wrestling program into one of the best in the nation and for his outspoken and controversial nature. He has long been a critic of Title IX, which was enacted to provide equal opportunities for men and women on campuses, saying that women's teams received unfair advantages over men's teams.
The school once investigated Robinson for forcing participants in his wrestling camp to write an anti-Title IX letter to send to elected officials.
He also was investigated in 2005 after three high school players were treated at a hospital after becoming overheated in a late-night workout at a hockey camp overseen by Robinson. He also ran youth camps for basketball and wrestling.
Robinson signed a contract extension last summer that runs through 2020 paying him $146,000 annually. Coyle said the university terminated him "for cause," meaning there was no settlement agreement reached.