The football players at the University of Minnesota announced this morning that they would end their boycott of the football program, which began several days ago, after 10 players were disciplined for Title IX violations in connection with charges of sexual assault brought by a female university student, NBC News reports.
The case involves an allegation by an unnamed female student, who says she was sexually assaulted by several other students, including football players, at a party on September 2. Alcohol was involved, but she charged the male students with sexual assault the following day.
A police investigation, which included partial video of the sexual activity, led to no arrests and no charges against anyone. The police said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.
But because of a Dear Colleague letter from the US Department of Education, schools are required to conduct an independent investigation of all sexual assault allegations, regardless of whether law enforcement officials in the community decide to prosecute the case.
- Read the Dear Colleague letter (April 2011)
As a result of that independent investigation, which is typically conducted by university staffers, not by prosecutors or police detectives, 10 football players were punished to varying degrees, up to and including kicking them out of the university.
The university didn’t complete its investigation until after the regular football season had ended, and the Gophers are now scheduled to play in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on December 27.
In protest over the disciplinary action taken by the university against the players, the football team decided sua sponte that they would boycott practice and likely extend that boycott through the bowl game. Yesterday was the second practice the team had skipped. Then, just this morning, they did a 180.
“So many before us have given so much to this university and this football team; so many coaches, staff, administrators, professors, alumni, fans, and our community have invested heavily in the success of our program,” NBC quoted “the team” as saying in a prepared statement. “We recognize that we must not let these people down.
“After many hours of discussion within our team, and after speaking with [University of Minnesota] President [Eric] Kaler, it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen,” their statement said.
The Dear Colleague letter from the US Department of Education changes the standard of proof required in a school’s investigation of sexual assault claims to a “preponderance of the evidence,” whereas the standard of proof for a criminal trial is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
While the players here certainly didn’t intend the boycott to suggest they endorse or condone sexual assault or any sexual activity without affirmative consent, depriving students of an education without due process is what the team took a stand against.