On Saturday, Minnesota football players ended their brief boycott of football activities to return to preparing for the upcoming Holiday Bowl against Washington State. The boycott did not result in overturning the suspensions to 10 teammates, so why the change of heart? Information from an 80-page sexual assault investigation report may have been the deciding factor.
According to a report from The Star-Tribune, a source claims once the report was reviewed by Minnesota football players, the entire tone of the boycott was altered. The information provided in the report brought a sense of clarity and answered some questions that were seemingly and frustratingly left unanswered for Gophers players. A lack of communication was one of the main reasons for the boycott in the first place at Minnesota, but the report may have made things a bit more clear.
The university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action report recommended five players (Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson) face expulsion from the university. Those players reportedly had sexual contact with an alleged female victim. The reports recommended one-year suspensions for Seth Green, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams and Antoine Winfield Jr. and probation for Antonio Shenault.
It was during a team meeting early Saturday morning where one of the suspended players urged his teammates to end the boycott and not ruin a postseason experience for everyone on the account of the 10 suspended players.
Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys, who had shown support for his players coming together for a cause they believe in with the boycott, has committed to donating $50,000 to victims of sexual violence.
File this story under news you don’t want your team to have before the bowl season. Minnesota has indefinitely suspended 10 players from team activities for violations of team rules. The extent of the violations was not revealed by the university due to privacy restrictions, but it did list which players have been suspended. Among the suspended players are starting safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and kick and punt returners KiAnte Hardin and Antonio Shenault.
Winfield, a freshman, is Minnesota’s fourth-leading tackler this season and he has the only interception returned for a touchdown by the Gophers this year (and 82-yard return against Maryland). Hardin tied for the team-high with two interceptions this season and he returned 10 kickoffs for 260 yards this season. Shenault only returned five punts this fall for a total of 32 yards.
Other players facing indefinite suspensions include freshman defensive backs Ray Buford and Dior Johnson, sophomore running back Carlton Djam, freshman quarterbacks Seth Green and Mark Williams, freshman defensive lineman Tamarion Johnson and junior running back Kobe McCrary. McCrary rushed 39 times in 12 games for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Djam appeared in just one game and carried the ball seven times for 33 yards.
For Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson, this is the second time they have faced a suspension this season at Minnesota. All four missed three games while a police investigation was ongoing for an alleged sexual assault incident that took place in early September. No charges were pressed and all four were reinstated by the program.
Because these are indefinite suspensions, it remains unknown for sure whether or not any of these players will be available for Minnesota’s upcoming bowl game. The Gophers are playing Washington State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego.
Already having the Big Ten West Division clinched by virtue of Nebraska’s loss on Friday, the Wisconsin Badgers are struggling a little bit at home this afternoon against rival Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Ax. The Golden Gophers hold a 17-7 lead at halftime in Madison.
Minnesota opened the game with a short field goal by Emmit Carpenter. After the teams exchanged punts on the next four possessions, Wisconsin put a dent on the scoreboard with a 10-play drive spanning 80 yards and culminating with a short run by Alec Ingold to put the Badgers on top, briefly. Mitch Leidner completed a 13-yard pass to the end zone after KiAnte Hardin returned the kickoff following the Wisconsin touchdown 69 yards. Minnesota added to its lead late in the first half with a Leidner touchdown run at the end of a seven-play, 68-yard drive.
Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was on the receiving end of a rough hit on the sideline in the first half that caused Wisconsin to not be very happy, although there may not have been anything dirty about the play.
Wisconsin is already heading to Indianapolis next week to face either Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten Championship Game.