Minnesota has fired coach Tracy Claeys, according to multiple reports.
The Gophers are coming off a 2016 season where they won nine games for the first time since winning 10 in 2003. The season was capped by 17-12 win against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.
However, the season also was marred by an investigation into 10 players allegedly involved in a sexual assault following the season opener against Oregon State on Sept. 2.
Athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement Tuesday that Claeys decision to support the players rather than back the administration “was not helpful.”
I also want to address the unfortunate blurring of the football suspension decision.
On December 13, 2016, Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham and I met to discuss 10 student-athletes.
I informed Coach Claeys of my judgment that athletic suspensions were appropriate.
Without any objection, Coach Claeys said he understood that decision to bench student-athletes.
Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham, and I met with the student-athletes to advise them of our decision. Coach Claeys subsequently informed me that he agreed with the suspension decision.
And let me be clear: this was the right thing to do.
Coach Claeys’ Tweet later that week was not helpful. I accept that Coach Claeys intended it to support the boycotting players. Understandably others did not see it that way. I hope you will appreciate I cannot say more about the athletic suspensions in this case.
Originally, four players were suspended and banned from TCF Bank Stadium after the victim, who works in football game day operations, filed a restraining order that kept the players out of the stadium.
While a settlement was reached that lifted the restraining orders, further investigations revealed that as many as 10 players may have had something to do with the alleged assault, and they were suspended for the Holiday Bowl. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office reviewed the case but declined to press charges.
The suspension led to a two-day boycott of all football activities by the Gophers. Claeys took to Twitter to support his players, which went against athletic director Mark Coyle and university president Eric Kaler.
This firing has not made the relations between the players and administration any better. Outgoing Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner told ESPN’s Brett McMurphy: “No one is happy with the administration right now. I don’t know who would want to be a part of this program at this time.”
The firing comes less than a month before national signing day. The Gophers currently rank last in the Big Ten in recruiting, according to Rivals, but do have 15 verbal commitments.
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