By Lee Barfknecht
LINCOLN ” A recent internal review of the Nebraska wrestling program has uncovered no NCAA violations, despite allegations by two former athletes booted from the team.
The Nebraska compliance office issued a statement Thursday in response to a story on ESPN’s Web site that included new claims of underage drinking at coach Mark Manning’s wedding in 2006 and up to $1,000 changing hands during poker games between Husker coaches and wrestlers.
NU’s response: “While there have been poker games played in the past between at least one wrestling coach and several wrestlers, there is no evidence to suggest that any NCAA violations have taken place.
“In addition, we have not found any violations in any of the information that ESPN has obtained in their pursuit of a story about Nebraska athletics.”
NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne, gone Thursday on a long-scheduled fishing trip, wasn’t available for comment.
Manning downplayed the ESPN story ” with the title “Naked in Nebraska” ” as a rehash of old events since the dismissals last August of Paul Donahoe and Kenny Jordan, who posed nude on a pornographic Web site.
“After digging around here for three months, I guess ESPN had to write something,” Manning said. “It’s way behind us. I put it behind us last August.
“Most people understand what type of kids we have on our team. It’s unfortunate these two guys made mistakes.”
The story’s main author is Paula Lavigne, a 1998 Nebraska graduate who grew up in Gretna. Lavigne said by e-mail Thursday that she has worked at ESPN for about a year, and that “it was just happenstance I ended up on this story.”
In the story, Donahoe claims that Manning allowed underage drinking at his 2006 wedding reception in Oklahoma.
“That’s not true,” Manning repeated three times Thursday. Another university employee, who attended the wedding, said the reception had a cash bar where hotel workers had the duty of checking IDs.
As for the poker, Jordan told ESPN that coaches or wrestlers sometimes left the table with as much as $800 to $1,000, saying: “They’re big cash games.”
“That never happened,” Manning said. “That’s not accurate. All of that has been discussed.”
Assistant coach Mike Greenfield told ESPN he played poker with wrestlers, but never won or lost more than $40 to $50.
Manning said Nebraska’s review of his program has led to no internal sanctions or orders to change his mode of operation. The Huskers finished fourth at the NCAA championships in March, and Manning was voted national coach of the year by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine.
Donahoe, five paragraphs from the bottom of the lengthy ESPN story, recants his allegations of Nebraska committing NCAA violations, saying:
“I said that? I must have been on drugs or something. I don’t remember that.”
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