Sexual assault, harassment concerns involving football players surface

School leaders have discussed ongoing concerns about football players’ conduct.

by Nick Wicker

Allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and retaliation have surfaced regarding the University of Minnesota football team.

The Star Tribune originally obtained email documents between University officials from July 16 that revealed two concerns of sexual assault by individual players, two concerns of sexual harassment by groups of players and one concern of retaliation involving a group of players.

The email — between Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Director Kimberly Hewitt and former Athletic Director Norwood Teague — showed that neither sexual assault concern was investigated because reporting students chose to not go forward with an investigation.

The email also said one player violated the school’s sexual harassment policy.  The other sexual harassment concern wasn’t investigated because the reporting student did not want to go forward with an investigation.

The school also investigated the retaliation complaint and “found concerning behavior by football players” but unsubstantial evidence that the players violated school policy, according to the email.

The complaints demonstrate “a concerning pattern of football player conduct that we believe requires responsive action,” Hewitt said in the email.

Interim Athletics Director Beth Goetz said in an email statement that members of the athletics department and the EOAA have met to determine whether educational efforts for the football team were necessary. Discussions are still ongoing, she said.

“One report of sexual assault or harassment is one too many and we took prompt, responsive action to investigate when notified of these reports,” she said. “Coach Kill has a strong track record of dealing with student-athlete issues as soon as they arise.”

The revealed allegations come on the heels of former Athletic Director Norwood Teague’s resignation in August after allegations that he had sexually harassed University employees.

Less than a month later, Associate Director Mike Ellis left the program on administrative leave after facing anonymous complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.

While none of these cases have led to any criminal charges, sexual harassment has still cost the University. In the last five years, the school has made five settlements in harassment cases totaling almost $450,000, according to documents obtained by the Minnesota Daily.

Teague and Ellis’ complaints were not included in these five cases. However, two cases involved former women’s gymnastics head coach Meg Stephenson and her husband, Jim Stephenson, a former assistant coach for the program.

Meg Stephenson resigned  August 2014 after University officials determined she violated the school’s anti-retaliation policy by “expressing her significant anger” in the wake of accusations against her husband for sexually harassing a gymnast. The allegations against Jim Stephenson led to a $250,000 settlement.