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Published April 19, 2024

Ex-tennis player backs off claims against U officials

University officials refuted on Monday a former women’s tennis player’s allegations that an athletics department official offered to reinstate her scholarship if she filed a sexual harassment complaint against her coach, Tyler Thomson.

Athletics Compliance Office director Frank Kara said he did not recall meeting with Jeannette Cluskey but said he talked with her mother after Cluskey left the team in February 2003.

Kara said he spoke with Cluskey’s mother about whether Cluskey would be able to retain her scholarship after she left the team.

On Saturday, Cluskey told The Minnesota Daily she met with Kara after three women left the team earlier that season and asked for her scholarship back for the 2003-04 school year.

Cluskey said she was upset the other three women were allowed to keep their scholarships after they left the team for the same reason as Cluskey.

In an interview Monday, Cluskey clarified her previous statements.

On Saturday, Cluskey told the Daily that Kara said he would give her scholarship back if she filed a complaint against Thomson.

On Monday, Cluskey said she met with Kara for the sole purpose of trying to get her scholarship reinstated.

“He asked me if I was going to file a sexual harassment complaint,” Cluskey said. “I said no. He said, ‘If you do file a sexual harassment complaint, something will be done.’ “

She said she could not be certain the “something” was a scholarship.

University officials further refuted the allegations.

“Even as revised we think it’s not accurate,” Deputy General Counsel William Donohue said.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said he responded appropriately to Cluskey’s complaints about Thomson.

“We in the athletic department and we on campus responded in the best possible manner to concerns of student athletes,” Maturi said.

Players’ allegations that Thomson was abusive were investigated, Maturi said.

“We’ve done an awful lot of research into this,” he said, “and it is our belief that coach Thomson has been mischaracterized. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for the program.”

Maturi said he talked with Cluskey and her mother about Thomson. He said Cluskey did not want to file a sexual harassment complaint.

Cluskey’s complaints about Thomson were forwarded to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Maturi said.

“I did above and beyond what they asked me to do,” he said. “They had concerns, but they did not feel there was sexual harassment.”

Maturi said Cluskey and three other players who left the team were allowed to retain their scholarships through the end of the academic year in which each of them left. He said the athletics department was not required to do so.

“I felt that was the appropriate thing to do since they did not feel they were being treated in a manner they deserved to be treated,” Maturi said.

Donohue said a player’s reason for leaving a team can affect whether that player is allowed to keep a scholarship.

Thomson was unavailable for comment Monday.

– Aaron Blake contributed to this report.

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