Last week, members of the University of Minnesota football team threatened to boycott the team’s bowl game because 10 of their teammates were suspended for an alleged sexual assault even though a police investigation into the claims yielded no charges.
The coach of the team now says he knew his job was on the line when, against the wishes of his administration, he threw his support behind his players who feared their teammates’ constitutional rights were being violated.
“I want everybody to understand, the boycott was around the due process, period,” coach Tracy Claeys told reporters this weekend.
In an interview with WCOO Radio the same day, Claeys recounted talking to his team “all about the different fallouts. One was that we might not be able to play in the bowl game. Two is that we knew there was going to be a group who took the stance that we were being pro-sexual assault, which we’re not. And then I told them there’s a great chance I could lose my job over this.”
The controversy began when the University of Minnesota announced it would suspend 10 players over a sexual assault that allegedly occurred on Sept. 2, in the early hours after the Gophers beat Oregon State.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s office declined to press charges after the Minneapolis Police Department conducted a full investigation, saying there was “insufficient admissible evidence for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either force was used or that the victim was physically helpless as defined by law in the sexual encounter.”
One police investigator who reviewed video taken that night described the woman involved as appearing “lucid, alert, somewhat playful and fully conscious,” adding that “at no time [in the videos] does she indicate she is in distress or that the contact is unwelcome or nonconsensual.”
But under Title IX, the standard for discipline is a “preponderance of evidence,” a much less rigid standard than “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” The university announced the suspensions after it conducted its own investigation.
On Friday, KSTP-TV somehow obtained and published the university’s investigation report, which is typically not public under federal law.
In the 82-page report, the alleged victim told University of Minnesota investigators that she was assaulted by as many as 20 men. The university’s report acknowledged “significant gaps” in the woman’s memory of that night; at times she named different attackers and backtracked on details of her testimony. But the Title IX report attributed these inconsistencies to a “very traumatic experience, rather than to a lack of care or truthfulness.”
According to the report, several football players admitted to a sexual encounter with the alleged victim but said they believed it was consensual. There were also discrepancies in the football players’ accounts, and the university’s report said it also found evidence suggesting some football players had deleted text messages and videos about the night of the alleged attack.
Members of the team announced their boycott on Dec. 15, refusing to play in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl and expressing concerns “that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard in violation of their constitutional rights.”
They ended that boycott on Saturday, saying administrators had assured them the accused players would receive a fair hearing in January. The suspensions remain in place. Coach Claeys also told reporters Sunday that he would donate $50,000 to support victims of sexual assault.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.