Minnesota Golden Gophers

EVANSTON, IL- SEPTEMBER 03: P.J. Fleck head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos reacts after his teams win against the Northwestern Wildcats on September 3, 2016 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. the Western Michigan Broncos won 22-21. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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WMU gets $50k for scholarships, P.J. Fleck gets ‘Row the Boat’ mantra

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The boat rowing for P.J. Fleck will officially and fittingly continue in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When Fleck moved from Western Michigan to Minnesota earlier this year, it was uncertain if his “Row the Boat” mantra, which had been trademarked by WMU, would follow the head coach.  As the two sides negotiated an agreement, all signs were pointing to the slogan, which Fleck adopted after his infant son died of a heart condition, shifting from Kalamazoo to Minneapolis.

Wednesday, the shifting has been made official as WMU announced in a press release that “‘Row the Boat,’ the three-word mantra that became the catch phrase for Western Michigan University football success, will become the legal intellectual property of… P.J. Fleck.” The agreement allows Fleck to “legally assume ownership of the phrase and be able to use or transfer it at will.” The university will be permitted to use the slogan, but only for “recognizing and celebrating Fleck’s tenure at WMU and the teams he coached.”

In return for the rights to the mantra, Fleck will make an annual payment of $10,000 over the next five years, with the $50,000 being used to support a scholarship for a WMU football player.

The trademark will technically be transferred to the Harlan Sports, the company of Fleck’s agent Bryan Harlan.  It’s expected the trademarked phrase will be used by Fleck’s new employer, with the head coach’s permission.

Minnesota players considering suing school following appeals panel decision

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 01:  Minnesota Golden Gophers fans celebrate a touchdown against the Oregon State Beavers in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
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A story the University of Minnesota would love to go away… isn’t going away.

Following the conclusion of a school appeals panel that cleared four football players in a sexual assault but upheld punishment for six others, a lawyer representing the group told the Associated Press that a lawsuit could be forthcoming against the university following the conclusion of a long and ugly process.

Ryan Pacyga, who represented Antoine Winfield Jr. during the proceedings and has since been brought on by Lee Hutton to help with representation of the other nine players involved, said Saturday “everything is on the table.”

“I think the process needs to be overhauled,” Pacyga said. “It was greatly concerning and any parent ought to be concerned if their student is accused of a Title IX violation, and especially sexual misconduct at the University of Minnesota.”

At the center of the case is an alleged sexual assault involving several football players after a home game last season. Quarterback Seth Green, running back Kobe McCrary, Winfield Jr. and cornerback Antonio Shenault were all cleared in the matter after the appeals hearing but were set to face a one-year suspension. Defensive backs Ray BufordKiAnte Hardin and Dior Johnson, as well as defensive end Tamarion Johnson, were all expelled from the school while Mark Williams’ one year suspension was upheld. A 10th player, tailback Carlton Djam, had his punishment reduced to a one-year suspension.

Of the group, Green and Winfield were expected to play a potential starting role for Minnesota under new head coach P.J. Fleck in 2017. How a potential lawsuit against the school would affect that remains to be seen, if we reach that point at all.

Either way, it seems like this ugly incident in the Twin Cities isn’t going away anytime soon.

Minnesota panel clears four football players in sexual assault case, upholds punishment for others

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 27:  Shannon Brooks #23 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers eludes Logan Tago #45 of the Washington State Cougars on a short run during the second  half of the Holiday Bowl at  at Qualcomm Stadium on December 27, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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A university panel has cleared four Minnesota football players of their involvement in an alleged sexual assault but upheld punishment for four others.

A female student was allegedly sexually assaulted following a football, which resulted in ten players being indefinitely suspended by the university and most of the team boycotting practices prior to the Holiday Bowl.

The Associated Press reports that the four players who were cleared were quarterback Seth Green running back Kobe McCrary, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and cornerback Antonio Shenault. Three of the four faced a one-year suspension while Shenault was put on probation. 

Others did not receive such favorable news as the panel upheld the expulsion of four others: defensive backs Ray Buford, KiAnte Hardin and Dior Johnson as well as defensive end Tamarion Johnson. A one-year suspension for Mark Williams was also upheld while tailback Carlton Djam had his punishment reduced from expulsion to a one-year suspension.

The decision by the panel likely concludes an ugly incident for the Gophers and allows the team to move forward under new coach P.J. Fleck. Of the players cleared and expected to return to the team, Green could be an option to take over at quarterback while Winfield was listed as a starter last season.

Big Ten National Signing Day recap: Ohio State lands historic class, Michigan not far behind

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shakes hands with head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines after a 42-13 Ohio State win at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Big Ten is the same as it ever was after National Signing Day with Ohio State and Michigan once again leading the way thanks to a boat load of talent headed their way. Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh both have proven to be some of the top coaches in college football and that is certainly apparent every February when the two land a pair of top five classes like they did this year.

The Buckeyes’ haul is particularly notable as one of the few groups that can keep pace with No. 1 ranked Alabama, even edging the Tide’s class when it comes to the average star ranking of the 21 signees. That historic haul for OSU includes the top cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive guard and top junior college defensive back. As if that isn’t enough talent headed to Columbus, the second-ranked defensive end, dual-threat quarterback and all-purpose back are also in the fold.

The Wolverines were no slouch either and managed to already enroll 11 top players early. In addition, Harbaugh and his staff reached into the South for defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and several IMG Academy stars. Defending champion Penn State made a late surge as well and Nebraska made a very nice push into Southern California to land a quality class.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 7 overall Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State), No. 8 overall Chase Young (DE, OSU), No. 11 Baron Browning (LB, OSU), No. 12 overall Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, Michigan)

Top 25 classes: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan, No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Maryland, No. 23 Nebraska

Biggest storyline: Ohio State, Michigan find plenty of success nationally

Everybody knows the two Big Ten powerhouses will perform well on the recruiting trail given their coaching staffs, history of success and ability to put players in the league. But what might be most impressive this year is the amazing reach the two displayed in mining the entire country for talent. Meyer went to Nevada for a top quarterback, landed more blue-chippers from Texas than any in-state school and beat out just about everybody in the South for prospects from Florida. The Wolverines, meanwhile, beat out Alabama and Georgia for a five-star defensive tackle and recruited even more nationally than Notre Dame with signees from 14 different states.

Biggest surprise: Maryland lands a top 20 class

There’s always a head-turner in the team rankings each year and in 2017 that might be the fact that Maryland landed a top 20 classes and the fourth-best in the Big Ten. That includes a whopping nine four-star recruits for D.J. Durkin’s team, led by tailback Cordarrian Richardson straight from the heart of SEC territory. The team had a nice turnaround last season and appear primed to climb more based on how they did Wednesday.

Don’t sleep on: Nebraska, Iowa

Mike Riley is no stranger to the West Coast thanks to his days at USC and Oregon State and he’s clearly leaning heavily on those ties in putting together a great group for the Cornhuskers in 2017. Big Red wrestled away Nevada receiver Tyjon Lindsey away from Ohio State and beat out a bunch of names for early enrollee quarterback Tristan Gebbia from Southern California. There’s been a major infusion of speed and quickness with this class. As for the Hawkeyes, they managed to lure a surprising commitment from a five-star defensive end and really upgraded some of the skill position talent.

We’ll see about: Michigan State, Wisconsin

The usual suspects dominated the top spots in the team rankings but that wasn’t quite the case for two teams that love to recruit, develop and then crank out talent for the next level in Michigan State and Wisconsin. The two schools combined for just six four-star players on Wednesday but still managed to finish with a pair of top 40 classes. Given how well the coaching staffs have been able to find some hidden gems, chances are high that will be the case once again with their 2017 signees, even if it takes a few seasons before those results will be realized.

Ten suspended Minnesota players present case before university panel

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: The jersey and helmet of Jon Christenson #63 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers are seen during the third quarter of the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on November 15, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Buckeyes defeated the Golden Gophers 31-24. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Amid an already horrifically ugly weekend for college football, the ten suspended Minnesota football players submitted their cases for exoneration before a university panel.

Following an incident in which a female student was allegedly sexually assaulted following the Gophers’ first home game of the season, the ten players were indefinitely suspended by the university. A Title IX investigation recommended expulsions for Ray Buford, Jr.Carlton DjamKiAnte HardinDior Johnson, and Tamarion Johnson, 1-year suspensions for Seth GreenKobe McCraryMark Williams and Antoine Winfield, Jr., and probation for Antonio Shenault.

That action led to a protest by the team, where the Gophers threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl. The players withdrew that threat, then went on to win the Holiday Bowl. However, the handling of that boycott contributed in head coach Tracy Claeys‘s firing.

Authorities declined to press charges, but the university continued forward with a code of conduct case against the ten.

The university presented its case in a 9-hour presentation on Thursday, according to the Associated Press, with the players following on Friday. The case was heard by a 3-person panel, where all that’s required is two of its members finding it “more than likely” a code of conduct violation was committed.