In his first statement to reporters since the football team announced the end of their boycott Saturday, Gophers football head coach Tracy Claeys dwelled on the reason behind the boycott, saying various times it was to achieve "due process" for the 10 teammates suspended over an alleged Sept. 2 sexual assault.
"If we can get this 'due process' thing to come to light to talk about it, it'll be better for all the students on all the universities," Claeys said. "In no way anybody supports the sexual assault, or the assault, of any women." He met with reporters at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex Sunday evening.
The team had planned to forfeit their spot in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State in protest of the suspension of 10 of their teammates. They backed down Saturday after a day of talks with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, Athletics Director Mark Coyle and University of Minnesota regents.
Claeys admitted a lack of understanding of the University's disciplinary processes, adding that all University staff and students should receive education on the differences between the school's student conduct code and criminal law.
"We have to do a lot better — I have to do a lot better — on being trained on all those processes," Claeys said.
He also clarified his statements from a WCCO-AM radio interview that aired Sunday, in which he thought there was "a great chance" he'd be fired. He said he was referring to the initial conversation he had with the team on Thursday, Dec. 15, before the boycott was announced.
Claeys said he was involved in conversations with Coyle over the suspension of the 10 players in relation to the alleged sexual assault, but did not say whether he was directly involved in the decision to suspend.
He said he thinks the school's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action report, which was leaked to KSTP Friday, had "minimal effect on the boycott."
"I understood why that decision was made when I read the report, but I also at the same time I also knew the players. They're arguing on the other side of the due process," Claeys said, adding that protests "happen all the time" on campuses nationwide.
"The kids are still, they're citizens first, you know, and so they do have constitutional rights. They're students second. And the distant third, they're being an athlete," he said.
Lee Hutton, the players' attorney, told the Minnesota Daily he has appealed the EOAA's findings, which recommend expulsion for five players, suspension for four and probation for one. Their University hearing processes could begin in January, Kaler said at a news conference Saturday. As of now, their suspensions are athletic, not academic.
The suspended players also plan to file lawsuits against “everyone,” including potential suits against the alleged victim-survivor, Hutton said. He declined to disclose other possible recipients of a suit, but added they would come “pretty soon.”
The team practiced again Sunday, Claeys said.