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College basketball research organizations have retroactively awarded Minnesota national championships in 1902, 1903, and 1919.The team has also had several instances of NCAA sanctions on the program that have affected performance and recruiting.In 1896, a team from the school began to participate in a league with the Agriculture school, YMCA teams, and other local associations. Cooke, a director of the Minneapolis YMCA, was hired on a part-time basis to coach the basketball program, and became the full-time coach and director of physical education by the fall of that year.The establishment of the Armory on-campus gave the team a new place to play. Cooke was one of the first full-time professional coaches in all of college basketball and would remain at the program for 28 seasons.This shift to playing similar competition helped the Gophers to become one of the premier programs in the nation.From the 1899–00 to 1903–04 seasons, the Gophers had a 59–6 record.In the 1970s, the Gophers were in a violent brawl with the Ohio State Buckeyes and were barred from post-season appearances for two seasons after an incident involving the illegal resale of tickets. Cooke was put on the University payroll on a part-time basis in early 1897 and full-time by the fall; this made him one of the earliest professional coaches.Still more severe was the mid-1990s academic scandal under then-coach Clem Haskins that resulted in the forfeit of a Final Four appearance. Dave Mac Millan, who coached the team from 1927 to 19 to 1948, had the second longest tenure as coach at 18 seasons.

Mychal Thompson was a Gophers star and was the first overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft.

Voshon Lenard was a key player for the Gophers in the early 1990s and went on to play more than a decade in the NBA.

Willie Burton once scored 53 points in an NBA game with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cooke began to improve the team significantly and was responsible for shifts in the Gophers' scheduling that foreshadowed other changes to come.

The team never played a YMCA team after the 1903–04 season, and beginning in 1900, began to schedule large neighboring universities that would join Minnesota in Big Ten competition.

The 1901–02 squad has been retroactively named the national champions by both the Helms Foundation and the Premo-Porretta Power Poll; the Premo-Porretta poll also names the 1902–03 Gophers as national champions.