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Minnesota players boycott football ahead of Holiday Bowl after 10 teammates suspended

The Gophers are scheduled to face Washington State on December 27.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota football team has announced a boycott of football following the suspension of 10 Gophers, some of whom were previously suspended this season after a sexual assault investigation.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, players threatened to boycott the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Washington State in protest of the 10 players being suspended. The team held a players-only meeting and later brought in head coach Tracy Claeys, informing him of their plans. Afterward, they announced the football boycott to reporters.

Claeys tweeted a message.

Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle and President Eric Kaler released a statement shortly after the boycott was announced.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune adds that the players will boycott the bowl game itself “if need be.”

The list of suspended players, via the Star Tribune, includes Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson, Tamarion Johnson, Antonio Shenault, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams, Seth Green, and Antoine Winfield Jr.

In a statement obtained by the paper, Minnesota said, “Due to privacy restrictions relating to student educational data, there is nothing further the University can share.”

Winfield is a starting safety on Minnesota’s defense. Hardin, Shenault, and Buford are cornerbacks in the Gophers’ rotation.

Hardin, Buford, and both Johnsons were suspended once this season, for a “violation of team rules” in September, according to the Star Tribune. That stemmed from an investigation of an alleged sexual assault incident on Sept. 2 and lasted the better part of a month, ending when Hennepin County declined to press charges against the players.

Those four players and Djam had restraining orders that kept them from the Gophers’ stadium, where an alleged victim “is part of the Gophers game day operations,” according to the paper.

Ray Buford’s father, Ray, Buford Sr., spoke with Fox News about the school’s decision to suspend his son.

"We were totally blindsided,” Buford said. “He was exonerated 3 times over, so how? How? What was different?”

"If you can be tried for the same thing -- this is like the 4th different entity -- the more you go at something, the better the success rate is,” Buford said.

Buford Sr. provided more detail in speaking with the Pioneer Press:

Buford Sr., a 17-year law enforcement official in Michigan, told the Pioneer Press that the suspensions are tied to an early-morning incident on Sept. 2 where four players — Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson — were “mentioned” in a Minneapolis Police report that included a woman’s allegations of sexual assault. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined Oct. 3 to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Buford said the new suspensions are the result an investigation by the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) and were relayed at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Buford said “some” of the players were recommended for expulsion from the university, and he added that will be met with appeals.

“The closer you were to the lady, the harsher the recommendation,” Buford said.

Per the Star Tribune, five of the 10 suspended football players now face expulsion from school, according to the players’ attorney, Lee Hutton. Four different players are facing a full year suspension, while another could get probation from the Sept. 2 incident.

The university discipline comes weeks after a criminal investigation resulted in no arrests or charges. You can read a report of Minnesota’s investigation into the incident here, via KSTP. The writing in the school’s EOAA report is graphic at times.

A statement from Minnesota’s president on Friday, which doesn’t change things a great deal but doesn’t seem to give any ground to the players: