Fundraising, stadium questioned after rape case

by Mitch Anderson

A wrench was thrown in the University’s public relations machine last week when police arrested and charged a fourth football player in a case related to an alleged rape in April.

The criminal charges brought against University football player Dominic Jones have now raised questions around campus – from students and officials alike – about the future of the football program and the University as a whole.

Fundraising and fans

Associate athletics director Phil Esten said he felt the new coach has handled the situation well and didn’t feel like it would take away from the program’s momentum.

“I’m proud of the way the athletics department has handled it and the way the University has handled (the situation),” Esten said. “I think our supporters see that too and we’ve received some really good feedback from them so far.”

With $26 million still to be raised for the on-campus stadium, Esten said he didn’t think the controversy would stall fundraising efforts.

“The people who are giving at this level typically have a tendency and an opportunity to see beyond these types of incidences,” he said.

Nancy Lindahl, co-chairwoman of the “Back to Campus” stadium campaign, said she viewed the controversy as a great warning to other University athletes.

“In light of (head football) coach (Tim) Brewster’s actions, we’re going to have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior,” she said. “In my estimation, it is something that should be sent across the whole country as far as college athletes go.”

Students react

Not all students were as pleased with the University’s handling of the controversy.

Shannon Vanosdel, an English senior, said she was concerned the athletics program receives so much money, yet still allows embarrassing events to occur.

“It’s disappointing really,” Vanosdel said. “Given the stadium situation and now this, it really reflects poorly on the school.”

Vanosdel added that the players involved in the alleged rape may not be the only ones to blame.

“There are probably a lot of good guys on the team and it’s unfair that they get dragged into this,” she said. “But that being said, maybe this is an indication that players weren’t being held accountable before and the University needs to step it up.”

The player arrests, however, weren’t enough to dampen support from some University students.

Jhett Marchel, a sports management senior, considers himself an avid Gopher football fan and has bought season tickets for the past three years.

Marchel said the conduct of a few players wouldn’t derail his excitement for the upcoming season, the first year under Brewster.

“It’s just like what’s going on in the NFL right now; individuals making poor decisions by themselves,” he said. “It’s not enough to stop me from getting season tickets next year or anything like that.”

Due process

Kevin Roberson, a journalism senior and member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity with Jones, said the public shouldn’t be so quick to judge Jones before all the facts are in.

“The way I look at it, the public is only receiving one side of the story,” Roberson said. “Once this court procedure starts developing, more and more information comes out Ö then we’ll start getting both sides of the story. Right now (the media) is just relying on court complaints and stuff that was given to them by the police.”

Roberson added that he would like to say more on the matter, but couldn’t due to fraternity policy.

Lori Peterson, a prominent Minneapolis sexual assault attorney, said it’s not uncommon for victims to press civil charges in addition to the criminal ones.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if there are resources there or not, you just want to make the person answer for it,” she said. “You get the person up on the stand and make them answer for it; you make a record and hold them accountable Ö at the very least.”

Although Peterson said she wasn’t aware of any civil suit against Jones, she said it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities.

Strategic communications sophomore Krystal Bradford said she was angry with how the University dealt with the players.

Bradford said she felt the University acted prematurely when it dismissed Alex Daniels, E.J. Jones and Keith Massey, in addition to Dominic Jones, from the football team.

“If they are charged, then I completely understand them getting kicked off the team because they are representing the University,” she said. “However, if there is no evidence or no charges being brought against them or anything of that nature, then there is no reason why the University should penalize these boys before the court system even has a chance to.”