Minnesota Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys said he hasn't feared for his job

MINNEAPOLIS--When Tracy Claeys tweeted support of his players' boycott at its beginning Thursday, the Gophers football coach said there was a "great chance" he would lose his job over the stance.

MINNEAPOLIS-When Tracy Claeys tweeted support of his players' boycott at its beginning Thursday, the Gophers football coach said there was a "great chance" he would lose his job over the stance.

When his players protested and demanded better due process for 10 suspended teammates, Claeys defied athletics director Mark Coyle's decision Tuesday to suspend those players from all team activities leading up to the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27.

Those 10 players had been implicated in an alleged sexual assault in an off-campus apartment in September, and a university office overseeing Title IX investigations is recommending further punishment.

The boycott ended Saturday morning, with the eligible players returning to practice Sunday and the suspended players staying away. After practice, Claeys clarified how that "great chance" quote on WCCO-AM on Sunday morning wasn't his current situation, with a resolution reached and more dialogue with Coyle.

Claeys described those chats as "good, very good," and insisted he doesn't worry about his job status.


"I never have," he said. "I work hard. Our coaches work hard. We do the best we can each day. I don't want to work for somebody who doesn't want me working for them, either. Life's miserable when you do that. I try to do my best every day, and whoever makes those decisions makes those decisions."

The Gophers players called off the protest Saturday morning, condemning sexual violence and calling for better due process for the players. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said the suspended players will receive a "very fair" hearing, likely in January.

The boycott's end came less than 24 hours after the school's 82-page report on the incident was leaked to KSTP Channel 5. Explicit details about an estimated 10 to 20 young men having sex with one woman unleashed widespread criticism of the players and the program.

A source told the Pioneer Press on Sunday morning that most of the players on the team were unaware of details in the report when they made the decision to boycott.

When they saw details in the leaked report, the source said, they "began to lose control." Had they known the circumstances and felt like they were being treated fairly in the process, the source added, the boycott "never would have happened."

Claeys, however, questioned how much impact the leaked report had on the boycott being called off.

"I'm not saying it didn't have some effect, but if it did, it was a very minimal effect on ending the boycott," Claeys said. "They're gonna have another communication here and be able to explain that a little bit more."

Claeys said Coyle consulted with him on the decision to suspend the players, giving him some details about the EOAA report, but Claeys said he didn't read the report until after the boycott started.


"Mark's a good boss, I'm telling ya," Claeys said. "It's one of those things, I understood why that decision was made when I read the report. I also knew the players, their argument on the other side of the due process. Yeah, I understand why they were made, but as (with) the players, the due process part was the part I did agree with."

On Saturday, Kaler addressed Claeys' and other assistant coaches' social-media support for the team - instead of backing U leadership - and how that might affect their standing at the school.

"Coaches are in a challenging position," Kaler said Saturday. "They need to support their players. They need to motivate their players. At the same time, they need to be responsible for their actions, and there are times in which those two demands put coaches in very difficult positions.

"I think some of our coaches around this issue were in that very difficult position, and we'll talk about that with them and try to improve both their understanding and our understanding."

Claeys said Sunday that the players' boycott did not have a goal to "overthrow power" in university leadership. "President Kaler and the (Board of Regents) have been very supportive of athletics, as has the whole university," he said on WCCO.

When Claeys returned from a Holiday Bowl news conference in San Diego on Wednesday, he met with players for more than an hour Thursday before the boycott started. He told radio host Dave Mona that they discussed how the boycott might be perceived as aligning against sexual assault victims and could cost them a chance to play in their bowl game against Washington State and cost Claeys his job.

Claeys has pledged a personal $50,000 donation to support victims of sexual assault with a to-be-determined organization.

"You don't think it bothers me and my family to get messages saying that I support rape?" Claeys asked. "I would never do that. I got four beautiful nieces and my sister and mom. Even the cause, it was never about that. Fortunately, I'm in a situation where I can reach out and do something like that and help the people that have been affected by sexual assault. I feel good about doing that."


According to players attorney Lee Hutton, the EOAA report recommended expulsion for Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson. One-year suspensions have been recommended for Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams, Seth Green and Antoine Winfield Jr., and probation for Antonio Shenault.

Those players were not arrested by Minneapolis Police nor charged by the Hennepin County attorney's office, but the criminal justice system has higher standards for a verdict than the school's Title IX and conduct code requirements.

Claeys, who is in his first full season as a head coach, said he must become better versed in U policies. "I have to do a better job of being trained on all those processes," he said.

Gophers senior linebacker Nick Rallis of Edina said the short-lived boycott was successful.

"It brought awareness to these guys' case and how they weren't given fair due process," he said on WCCO. "And President Kaler came out and said he will review how that is going to get handled in the future. To me, that is progress."

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