Go­phers will­ing to bow out of bowl

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Steve Karnowski

minneapolis» The Univer­sity of Min­nesota foot­ball team is threat­en­ing to boy­cott one of the na­tion’s best known and most lu­cra­tive sec­ond-tier bowl games over the sus­pen­sion of 10 play­ers ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a sex­ual as­sault.

Pros­e­cu­tors de­cided there was not enough ev­i­dence to file crim­i­nal charges, and the play­ers thought the mat­ter was be­hind them. But a sep­a­rate school in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded Wed­nes­day that the ath­letes vi­o­lated a pol­icy adopted last year that de­fines sex­ual as­sault as any­thing with­out a “clear and un­am­bigu­ous” ex­pres­sion of con­sent.

Now, less than two weeks be­fore the Go­phers’ sched­uled Dec. 27 game with Wash­ing­ton State in San Diego, the walk­out threat­ens to up­end the Hol­i­day Bowl.

The en­tire team gath­ered Thurs­day to tell re­porters it won’t prac­tice or play un­less the sus­pen­sions are re­voked. Sev­eral play­ers also are fac­ing pos­si­ble ex­pul­sion.

“All these kids’ rep­u­ta­tions are de­stroyed,” se­nior quar­ter­back Mitch Lei­d­ner said. “Their names are de­stroyed. It’s ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to get back, and it’s un­fair for them, and that’s why we’re stick­ing to­gether through this thing.”

In a joint state­ment is­sued Fri­day, Min­nesota pres­i­dent Eric Kaler and ath­letic di­rec­tor Mark Coyle called the sus­pen­sions “a val­ues-based de­ci­sion,” not a le­gal judg­ment.

“But we can tell you that cer­tain be­hav­ior is sim­ply un­ac­cept­able and an­ti­thet­i­cal to our in­sti­tu­tional val­ues. We sup­port Go­pher Ath­let­ics’ de­ci­sion be­cause this is much big­ger than foot­ball,” the news re­lease said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion said it of­fered to meet with play­ers Fri­day, but the of­fer wasn’t ac­cepted.

Sex­ual mis­con­duct al­ready had been a sen­si­tive sub­ject for the Big Ten univer­sity and for its ath­letic de­part­ment. Min­nesota ath­letic di­rec­tor Nor­wood Teague re­signed in Au­gust 2015 amid al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. His re­place­ment, Coyle, was brought in with em­phatic or­ders not to tol­er­ate such be­hav­ior, and he played a key role in the de­ci­sion to sus­pend the play­ers.

School of­fi­cials de­clined to say why the play­ers were sus­pended or pro­vide any de­tails of the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, cit­ing stu­dent pri­vacy rules. But an at­tor­ney for sev­eral of the sus­pended play­ers and the fa­ther of one of them con­firmed the ac­tion was taken in con­nec­tion with an al­leged sex­ual as­sault in an apart­ment near cam­pus in the early hours of Sept. 2, af­ter the Go­phers won their sea­son opener.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice reports, the woman who made the com­plaint at­tended a few par­ties be­fore end­ing up in the off-cam­pus apart­ment of the Go­phers’ Carl­ton Djam and Ta­mar­ion John­son. The po­lice reports said she ac­com­pa­nied Djam and a male whose name was redacted to Djam’s room, where she had sex with both of them at the same time.

Af­ter the un­named male left, she said the Go­phers’ Ta­mar­ion John­son en­tered the room and that she had sex with him too. She said she re­mem­bered see­ing sev­eral peo­ple watch­ing.

“She de­scribed it as a line of peo­ple, like they were wait­ing for their turn . ... She re­calls yelling for them to stop send­ing peo­ple in the room be­cause she couldn’t han­dle it,” one of the po­lice reports said.

The woman said she re­called at least three other men forc­ing them­selves on her, in­clud­ing play­ers Dior John­son and Ray Bu­ford Jr. She told po­lice the sex­ual con­tact be­tween her and Djam and the un­named man may have been con­sen­sual, but that it was not con­sen­sual with the oth­ers.

She was not sure if she had sex with player KiAnte Hardin, though he told po­lice they did and that she agreed to it.

Min­nesota wide re­ceiver Drew Woli­tarsky, flanked by quar­ter­back Mitch Lei­d­ner, left, and tight end Duke Anyanwu, stands with other team­mates Thurs­day night while he an­nounces a teamwide boy­cott of all foot­ball ac­tiv­i­ties. Jeff Wheeler, Star Tri­bune

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