University of Minnesota football players announced on December 15 that they are boycotting all football activities, including their December 27 Holiday Bowl game against the Washington State Cougars, to protest the University’s decision to suspend 10 teammates over a sexual assault allegation, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune. The University adopted an affirmative sexual consent policy in September 2015.
According to senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, the University’s Athletic Director Mark Coyle failed to provide satisfactory answers to questions about why the 10 players had been suspended. Wolitarsky said that
“the boycott will remain in effect until due process is followed and the suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted.”
The suspensions were handed down based on recommendations of the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action following a Title IX investigation into an alleged incident that occurred on September 2. Initially, four players were suspended, but were reinstated when the Hennepin County prosecutor declined to press charges. (None of the players were arrested.) Thereafter, the EOAA conducted its own investigation, resulting in the 10 suspensions.
Responding to the announced boycott, Coyle and Minnesota President Eric Kaler said in a joint statement:
We understand that a lot of confusion and frustration exists as a result of this week’s suspension of 10 Gopher football players from all team activities. The reality is that not everyone can have all of the facts, and unfortunately the University cannot share more information due to federal laws regarding student privacy.
We fully support our Gopher football players and all of our student-athletes. Situations like this are always difficult, and the decision was made in consultation with and has the full support of President Eric Kaler.
The decision was based on facts and is reflective of the University’s values. We want to continue an open dialogue with our players and will work to do that over the coming days.
It’s important that we continue to work together as we move through this difficult time.
Some of the suspended 10 players may be expelled while others may be suspended or put on probation for a year. The suspensions can be appealed, but a hearing may not occur before the Bowl game. Northern Illinois University, which finished with a 5-7 record but won four of its last five games, is next in line for a bowl game and could replace the University if the boycott continues.