UMN’s actions on football sex assault case fell under federal law and school policy, review finds

The review offered recommendations for the University following the 2016 football team boycott.

President Eric Kaler and Athletics Director Mark Coyle address media following the Gopher football team's announcement to end their boycott on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.

Chris Dang / Minnesota Daily

President Eric Kaler and Athletics Director Mark Coyle address media following the Gopher football team’s announcement to end their boycott on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.

David Clarey

An external review found the University of Minnesota’s disciplinary actions towards 10 football players accused of sexual assault complied with internal policy and federal laws.

The review — conducted by two Minneapolis attorneys — also pointed to several factors which fostered the team’s boycott, including weak leadership from the coaching staff, poor communication between administration and the team, and a lack of understanding of the team of disciplinary processes.

“These factors helped foster a hostile atmosphere where meaningful dialogue was difficult,” the review said.

The review comes after the University, the athletic department and the football team faced national scrutiny in December 2016 for their handling of the player’s discipline and the football team’s boycott in response to the suspension.

The boycott proved divisive. Some critics questioned the fairness of the suspended players, while others attacked the boycott’s and said it supported sexual assault.

The review supported that the University upheld due process for accused students. It noted the U offers more protections for the accused than other Big Ten universities – allowing attorneys to cross-examine witnesses and letting them be present throughout the entire process. 

Dorsey and Whitney, the law firm which conducted the review, recommended a “more coordinated and unified” response after the boycott from the Board of Regents, administration, coaches and athletic department officials.

The review also recommended ways the University could improve its practices to better ensure privacy for involved parties.

While the football team team’s boycott was short lived, the fallout was dramatic. Five of the accused players were ultimately cleared of wrongdoing by the University in appeals hearings, while the others were suspended or expelled.

The University fired Tracy Claeys, the football team’s head coach and an outspoken team boycott supporter, Jan. 3 after a victory in the Holiday Bowl.