Investigators conclude no pattern of interference in Gophers sexual misconduct cases

Sarah McKenzie
Staff Reporter

Although athletics officials interfered in some sexual misconduct investigations involving some Gophers athletes, independent investigators failed to find a systematic pattern of interference.
The investigators found “a pattern of favoritism” among athletic officials toward student athletes accused of sexual misconduct, according to the report released this afternoon.
However, evidence from the six-week investigation did not indicate University officials “routinely interfered” in sexual misconduct cases that were never forwarded to prosecutors.
The names of coaches, players and victims were deleted from the report released to the media. University President Mark Yudof issued a series of mild policy changes after the findings were made public.
The investigators from the lawfirm Halleland, Lewis, Nilan, Sipkins, and Johnson interviewed 80 individuals and analyzed more than 50,000 documents. The analysis, which included newspaper articles and police records, set out to determine whether “systematic interference” took place, according to the report.
After the exhaustive analysis, attorneys pinpointed 40 incidents of athletes accused of sexual and domestic assaults, according to the report. Of the 37 victims involved in those incidents, 10 consented to interviews with investigators.
Investigators found that athletic officials were involved in 12 incidents by either contacting the victims or the police officers investigating complaints. Investigators found five instances where officials negotiated resolutions internally, according to the findings.
In only one case, investigators found intervention that might have dissuaded a victim from pursuing criminal charges.
“In that incident, a football player (no longer a student) allegedly assaulted a female student in a University dormitory, causing sever injuries,” the report states. “At least one assistant football coach, and possibly others, spoke with the victim after her initial report to the police, when she indicated she wanted to press charges.”
The football player allegedly committed five assaults in a nine-month period, according to the report. Coaches might have known that the player had been accused of a sexual assault while he was recruited, according to the investigators’ concluding remarks.
In response to the 200-page report completed by a Minneapolis law firm, University President Mark Yudof issued a series of policy changes designed to improve reporting mechanisms available to victims with sexual harassment and assault complaints.
“In my view, the coaches should never meet with the victims or the victims’ parents, except under the most strict circumstance,” Yudof said.
The president implemented the following measures Friday in response to the findings:
149> Men’s athletic officials are prohibited from contacting victims of any alleged sexual misconduct or domestic abuse without the consent of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
149> Members of the coaching staff and other athletic officials are prohibited from participating in interviews involving criminal complaints against student athletes.
149> The Office of the General Counsel must approve any informal mechanisms designed to resolve sexual misconduct complaints.
149> Any student-athlete arrested for or charged with sexual assault or domestic abuse is automatically suspended from team activities. Such a suspension can only be lifted by a grievance officer.
Yudof has also appointed another four-member task force to determine if changes are necessary in current student disciplinary procedures addressing sexual misconduct. Committee members include attorneys from General Counsel, a grievance officer and a faculty member.
The new task force is expected to report their findings Oct. 1, Yudof said, one month after investigators complete the men’s athletics academic fraud investigation.
All legal fees associated with the investigative work will come from men’s athletics funds, Yudof said. The total cost is unclear at this point.
Yudof, who alluded to further management changes after the resignation of former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins June 25, said he will wait for the completion of investigations in the fall before examining that option.
“I don’t see any point in speculating before I have the evidence,” he said.
The president, who is scheduled to leave on a trip to Europe tomorrow, said he is confident that the allegations have not seriously harmed the University’s reputation.
“You don’t make excuses, you investigate and you perfect your systems,” Yudof said. “But you don’t write off the University of Minnesota.”
McKinley Boston, Vice President for Student Development and Athletics, said he was concerned about the report’s findings, but relieved that the report did not contain any “smoking guns.”
A former academic tutor accused Boston of urging her to change her story after she reported that a football player masturbated in front of her during a tutoring session in a May 21 news report.
Boston denied the allegation, but said the investigators and other victim advocates have raised legitimate concerns.
He said he welcomes further analysis of policies addressing sexual misconduct.
“Communication between coaches and administrators will certainly be enhanced,” Boston said of Yudof’s recommendations.