On Tuesday afternoon, Minnesota fired head coach Tracy Claeys. Claeys led the Gophers to a 9-4 season, along with a Holiday Bowl win over Washington State.
Claeys stood by his players during their football boycott, that was in protest of ten Minnesota football players being suspended following a sexual assault investigation by the school.
On the night of the boycott announcement, Claeys openly supported his players, although he wasn’t present in front of the media during the announcement.
Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world! 〽️— GoldenGopherHFC (@GoldenGopherHFC) December 16, 2016
Following the boycott ending, Claeys said that he told his players that supporting their boycott could get him fired.
Claeys, who was called into a players-only meeting prior to the boycott announcement, said via ESPN in a recent interview with WCCO Radio that he informed his players of the ramifications of a boycott, including that it would be viewed as “pro-sexual assault.”
On Sunday, Claeys told WCCO Radio that he and his team met before the players decided on the boycott. He said he told them "about all the different fallouts. One was that we might not be able to play in the bowl game. Two is that we knew that there was going to be a group who took the stance that we were being pro-sexual assault, which we're not. And then I told them there's a great chance I could lose my job over this."
Below is an excerpt from The Daily Gopher, which describes the circumstances of both the boycott and the school’s sexual assault investigation.
In compliance with Title IX, the university launched its own internal investigation into the incident, through which a committee determined it was “more likely than not” that sexual assault had occurred. It recommended that five players be expelled, four be suspended for a year, and one be placed on probation for a year. Not all 10 student athletes were believed to have committed sexual assault, as 5 of them were punished for other violations of the student code of conduct. The penalties were handed down on December 13, and all 10 players were suspended indefinitely.
The rest of the football team — frustrated with a lack of communication from Coyle and university president Eric Kaler and reacting to a perceived lack of due process for their teammates — decided to boycott all team activities on December 15. The players requested a meeting with members of the Board of Regents and demanded the suspensions be lifted until appeal hearings could be conducted for the suspended players. The boycott — which ended on December 17, with no concessions made by Coyle or Kaler — drew mixed reactions both locally and nationally, with some supporting the team and others condemning their actions as a power play intended to subvert justice for an alleged victim of sexual assault.
Claeys took over at Minnesota after former Gophers head coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement in the middle of the 2014 season due to health reasons. Kill retired after putting together back-to-back 8-5 seasons during his tenure. Claeys, Kill’s former defensive coordinator has maintained that success with his 2016 season, but there were obviously much bigger factors than wins and losses at play with this decision.
The Daily Gopher cites several reasons as to why Minnesota is a desirable job to a new head coach.
Big Ten West - The Big Ten is a very good and prestigious league, an obvious draw for anyone who dreams of coaching college football at the highest level. And the thing about the Minnesota job is that you don’t have to play in the East. Beating out the likes of Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin is not easy, but certainly more realistic than coming out ahead of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan State (sand 2016). So the short version is this...you are in a premier conference and you happen to be in the division that’s actually winable.
Recent trend of success. The last four seasons have seen 8 wins, 8 wins, 6 wins and then 9 wins. Not exactly Rose Bowl caliber seasons but it’s not like you are following Tim Brewster’s 3-win season. There is some talent on the roster and there is a recent trend of success to build upon. The cupboard is not bare.
But for what it’s worth, a former Minnesota QB, Mitch Leidner, has his doubts about the culture.
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner: “This is terrible decision by the administration. This is a pretty sad day for Gopher football."— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 3, 2017
Minnesota QB Mitch Lender: “No one is happy w/administration right now. I don’t know who would want to be part of this program at this time"— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 3, 2017