On June 26, longtime Winona (Minn.) State University basketball coach Mike Leaf resigned unexpectedly. In multiple interviews, the only explanation he gave was that “it’s time.” Eight weeks later, hints at a darker story are emerging.
Leaf was a coach at Winona State for 28 years, the last 17 as head coach. He led the Warriors to three straight Division II national title games, winning it all in both 2006 and 2008. Their 57-game winning streak from January 2006 to March 2007 is a Division II record, and they’re widely regarded as one of the strongest programs in Division II basketball.
The team hasn’t been quite so good in recent years—they were knocked out of the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2013-14, and went 14-13 last season—but Leaf’s resignation still came as a shock. At 54 he is relatively young, and there were no hints that anything like this was coming. The resignation was abruptly announced on a Friday, and the Winona Daily News reports that he didn’t even finish coaching his basketball camp the week of his resignation.
Last week, the university confirmed that they were investigating a complaint against Leaf, and provided the following statement:
A complaint is pending against Mike Leaf. The complaint is being investigated by Winona State University. In compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, no other information is available.
The university declined to provide the complaint itself, nor give any details about who filed it or when. Multiple outlets reported attempting to call Leaf for comment and finding that his number had been disconnected.
On Tuesday the Rochester Post-Bulletin published a look at their efforts to find out what happened.
The Post-Bulletin filed a Minnesota Government Data Practices Act request for information on the case on July 14, but the university rejected the request and said it involved private personnel data. Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson says that Winona State was justified in rejecting the P-B’s data request, but if Leaf had been disciplined or fired, rather than resigning, emails and other correspondence from school officials would be public information.
On D2 Message Board, the discussion about Leaf’s resignation took an ominous turn in the past few weeks, with longtime posters seemingly convinced that what went down was very bad:
I have heard a story or incident that happened over the weekend that caused all of this but I am not going to post it on here because my hope is that others mainly media will ask questions to bring some things to light or explain more behind the resignation.
Does it matter? I just hope that WSU is doing the right thing by getting the student the proper care for this ugly incident.
Well the AD opened his mouth and told several people. Only a matter of time before the newspaper gets ahold of this. This could get ugly.
My mind was blown when I heard what allegedly took place down in Winona.
These accounts square pretty well with what we have heard from multiple sources: that something very bad may have happened at Winona State.
We contacted the Winona Police Department, who said they have no calls regarding Leaf or his home in their system. There are no recently filed lawsuits against Leaf or Winona State in either Minnesota District Court or federal court, and the Department of Education says that Winona State isn’t under investigation for a Title IX violation. Beside the university acknowledging it has received a complaint about Leaf, everything else is rumor.
We have filed a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act request for documents and communications regarding Leaf’s resignation. But according to a Winona State Data Practices Compliance Officer it will take “a few weeks or more” for us receive a response, and even that doesn’t guarantee that the university will provide documents responsive to our request.
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