Off Beat

As the Tongues Wag

THE RUMOR MADE the rounds not long after the St. Paul Pioneer Press broke the story about widespread academic fraud in the University of Minnesota's basketball program ( Then it returned in the days after the story snagged a Pulitzer: The exposé's author, Pi Press sports reporter George Dohrmann, got the original tip from his fiancée, who was working in the athletic department at the time. An illustrious college basketball program brought down by serendipitous pillow talk? A succulent tidbit indeed! Dohrmann tells Off Beat that his betrothed, Amy Sullivan, was employed in the U's athletic department (she repaired computers), but she left the job in the spring of 1997. "The theory that she leaked all of this is pretty preposterous," says the newly minted Pulitzer honoree, explaining that his story was actually born of a tip from an athletic department source who gave him a list of former department staffers and suggested he call them and ask about turnover within the department, not about academic fraud. Two of the names on the list: star source Jan Gangelhoff, an ex-office manager who would later admit to having written papers for players; and Elayne Donahue, former director of the U's academic counseling unit, who had raised red flags about Gangelhoff's tutoring of players, only to be ignored. Dohrmann won't name his original source, but he does point a finger at an alleged rumormonger: Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman, Dohrmann says, spread the falsehood about Sullivan in an attempt to undermine the significance of the Pi Press's coup. "It's hilarious that Sid Hartman would be questioning someone else's methods," Dohrmann scoffs. "At my paper it's a running joke." Dohrmann says that on the day former Gophers coach Clem Haskins's contract buyout was announced last June, Hartman approached him at the university and said cryptically, "I know things about you," and later asked, "How's Amy?" Fellow Pi Press sportswriter Greg Johnson recounts a similar tale, set at a Twins game last June: "Sid came up to me and said, 'How's Amy?' Johnson recalls. "He goes, 'I know that's how he got that story.'" Reached at the Strib, Hartman refuses to comment, then tersely tells Off Beat, "I have not talked about that thing at all."

Think Thin

WANNA BUY A skinny house? Several years back, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association undertook a project called little/LOTS, aiming to use a growing number of vacant lots in the south Minneapolis neighborhood that are too narrow for new construction--a consequence of modern-day zoning laws that conflict with Depression-era building practices. Last week local realtors (and Off Beat) got a peek at the project's prototype: a nearly completed four-bedroom home built on a 36-foot-wide lot at 3530 Elliot Ave. S. (Minneapolis city code requires that buildable lots be at least 40 feet wide; the little/LOTS house required a zoning variance.) The design, a modified A-frame chosen from among 165 entries in a competition last winter (see "The House of Lot," in the February 17, 1999 issue of City Pages), is eclectic but not brazenly out of place in the area, which boasts examples of Victorian architecture but also many more modest homes built during subsequent harder times. Its 1,530-square-foot layout features vaulted ceilings, an open floor plan downstairs, two porches, a full bathroom and two half-baths, and the option of combining two of the small bedrooms into one master. To Off Beat's eye, calling a small room off the foyer an "office" was a bit of a reach, but there's no denying that the entire space is bright and airy. In back there's a detached garage and plenty of room for a garden. Asking price: $135,000. That's a lot more than the $85,000 the neighborhood association was aiming for, but construction costs were higher than anticipated--a whopping $200,000--and there's no denying the housing market has been ablaze. Still, PPNA executive director Dave Rubedor thinks the neighborhood's investment will have been worthwhile if it helps solve the narrow-lots dilemma. "Vacant lots drag down the value of the [other] houses," Rubedor explains, noting that as the older housing stock deteriorates, Powderhorn and other parts of the city are destined to be saddled with more skinny properties. Eventually, he hopes, Minneapolis will amend its zoning regulations to accommodate houses like the one on Elliot. "It's our way of keeping the market going," Rubedor says. "Keeping housing up to grade and putting housing where we can."

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