Minnesota Suspends Ten Football Players Before Bowl Game

The suspensions are related to a sexual assault incident from the beginning of the season, and were announced just over two weeks before the Goldon Gophers play the Holiday Bowl.

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Dec 14 2016, 2:48pm

Photo by Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Just over two weeks before Minnesota is set to play Washington State in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, the Golden Gophers have suspended ten football players related to a sexual assault incident from the beginning of the season. In September, four members of the team were named in a police report for sexual assault that occurred in a female student's apartment following the opening game of the season. Ray Buford, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson, and Tamarion Johnson served what turned out to be three-game suspensions while the university and police investigated the case. In October, police declined to press charges and they were allowed to resume playing.

The victim then filed restraining orders against those four and another, Carlton Djam, which kept them out of one more home game—October 29 against Rutgers—because the victim was a member of the Minnesota football game-day operations and the order prohibited them from showing up to her place of work. The restraining order remained in effect until November 2, when the case was settled in court.

However, the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action was conducting its own investigation and announced Tuesday afternoon that it was suspending ten players indefinitely for their connection to the incident.

In addition to the five already mentioned, Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Antonio Shenault, Mark Williams, and Antoine Winfield Jr. have also been suspended. According to the Star Tribune, they were also in the apartment when the alleged sexual assault occurred.

Lost in the pervasiveness of the Baylor scandal is that Minnesota has had a string of sexual assault and harassment claims against players and administrators over the last year. In August 2015, athletic director Norwood Teague resigned after admitting that he sexually harassed two university employees; that November, assistant AD Mike Ellis followed him. In between those two resignations, the football program faced two reports of sexual assault "committed by individual players," and two other reports accusing a "group" of players of sexual harassment.