The fallout from an ugly incident in 2016 involving the football team continues to affect the University of Minnesota and the latest battle ground now appears to be a federal court.
ESPN has obtained a new lawsuit filed against the school on Friday, which alleges “racial and gender discrimination; intentional, willful, and malicious misconduct; and deliberate indifference” from the university that caused damage to nine current and former Gophers football players. Ten players were initially involved in the original sexual assault incident that led to various suspensions and expulsions from the program but the report does not say which of the group is not participating in the lawsuit. It does however point out that three current members of the 2018 team are involved with the lawsuit: Antoine Winfield Jr., Seth Green and Antonio Shenault.
“We are aware of the lawsuit served on behalf of several current and former students,” the school said in a statement released to ESPN. “The University thoughtfully and thoroughly responds when faced with disturbing allegations, and provides extensive process to students accused of misconduct, including the opportunity to be heard during thorough investigations, panel hearings, and Provost review. Further, aggrieved students have a right to review by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. We will vigorously defend the University.”
The lawyers for the group are seeking $45 million in damages, or about $5 million per player.
While there are a lot of details involved in the story, most will remember the initial fallout from 10 players getting suspended when the Gophers entire football team held a short boycott of activities shortly before they played in the Holiday Bowl. The team eventually relented from the boycott and went on to beat Washington State in the game but the damage was already done to many involved and then-head coach Tracy Claeys was eventually fired after supporting his players in the matter (he somewhat ironically was later hired by the Cougars as their new defensive coordinator).
No charges were brought in the matter by prosecutors but the heart of the lawsuit alleges mishandling by the university in how they dealt with the case internally — including the eventual suspensions and expulsions of the 10 players. It goes without saying that this will be something to keep an eye out for over the coming months and years, to say nothing of the awkwardness of having three Gophers playing for and suing their own school at the same time this season.