U boycott ends, but damage remains
University of Minnesota football players decided Saturday to end their two-day boycott of football activities over the suspension of ten of their teammates. After discussions with University President Eric Kaler, they became convinced the administration was not going to back down on the disciplinary actions, but were also convinced their teammates would get a fair hearing on the charges they violated University standards by being involved in group sex with a woman who later claimed she had been sexually assaulted.
While investigators could not make a conclusive case to bring criminal charges against the players, that is hardly an exoneration. The University is certainly justified in expecting its student athletes not to engage in orgies to celebrate their victories. The team’s loyalty to their fellow players is respectable, but they are certainly a long way from the moral high ground in their boycott.
While the team is now preparing to play in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27, the U of M and the Athletic Department will not as easily recover from this latest black eye.
We could ask why the U’s Office of Equal Opportuniy and Affirmative Action (OEOAA) took so long to make its recommendation on this matter, which occured on Sept. 2 after the Gophers’ season opener. Were the students unaware that they could still be subject to University discipline after the criminal investigation ended with no charges? Are they informed before they even put on a uniform that they will be held to a higher standard of conduct than simply avoiding criminal charges?
There are questions about how the University administration came to its decision to act on the recommendations of the OEOAA, and how it communicated that decision.
The task also remains of rebuilding the trust in the community that the U of M is running a respectable athletic program.
It will take a long time for the fallout from this to settle.