Coyle on Claeys termination: ‘We need a leader who sets high expectations athletically, academically, and socially’

Gophers head football coach Tracy Claeys was fired Tuesday.

University director of athletics Mark Coyle speaks with the press at the Crow River Golf Club in Hutchinson, Minn on June 1. This was the first stop of the Gopher Road Trip Chalk Talk where University coaches talk about the upcoming season with fans and the press.

Daily File Photo

University director of athletics Mark Coyle speaks with the press at the Crow River Golf Club in Hutchinson, Minn on June 1. This was the first stop of the Gopher Road Trip Chalk Talk where University coaches talk about the upcoming season with fans and the press.

Mike Hendrickson

Gophers head football coach Tracy Claeys was fired Tuesday after being with the program since 2010. His replacement has not yet been announced.

The decision comes shortly after the team staged a two-day boycott of all football activities — including the Holiday Bowl — in protest of the suspension of 10 players for their connection to an alleged sexual assault.

Read Athletics Director Mark Coyle’s statement on the decision below:

I made a difficult decision today on behalf of the University of Minnesota. With the support of Board of Regents’ leadership and President Eric Kaler, I have decided to take the Gophers football team in a different direction with new coaching leadership.

I determined that the football program must move in a new direction to address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges.

This decision is about the future of Minnesota football.

Moving forward, we need a leader who sets high expectations athletically, academically, and socially.

I also want to address the unfortunate blurring of the football suspension decision.

On December 13, 2016, Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham and I met to discuss 10 student-athletes.

I informed Coach Claeys of my judgment that athletic suspensions were appropriate.

Without any objection, Coach Claeys said he understood that decision to bench student-athletes.

Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham, and I met with the student-athletes to advise them of our decision. Coach Claeys subsequently informed me that he agreed with the suspension decision.

And let me be clear: this was the right thing to do.

Coach Claeys’ Tweet later that week was not helpful. I accept that Coach Claeys intended it to support the boycotting players. Understandably others did not see it that way. I hope you will appreciate I cannot say more about the athletic suspensions in this case.

I will say, as a general matter, athletic suspension decisions – essentially a decision to bench a player – are different from a prosecutor’s decision to charge someone with a crime.

Different standards, different policies.

An athletic suspension decision is also different from a panel decision whether there has been a student conduct code violation.

Different standards, different policies.

For example, we suspend student-athletes for attitude problems. We suspend student-athletes while criminal investigations are ongoing. We suspend student-athletes when University investigators present credible evidence of inappropriate conduct. What happens in a student conduct process is not for me to say. Like the U and all involved, I simply want a just and fair process. That is not determined by who prevails; if justice is done, then the University of Minnesota and the public win, no matter the outcome.

Again, this has been a difficult decision. I thank Coach Claeys and his staff for their years of service. Coaches Dan O’Brien and Mike Sherels have agreed to remain during the coaching transition to ensure that our student-athletes have strong and active leadership in the interim.