AP: Gophers players almost reinstated boycott over suspensions

From left to right quarterback Mitch Leidner, wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky and tight end Duke Anyanwu stand with the rest of their team. Wolitarsky read a statement saying the players would boycott all football activities. Peter Cox | MPR News

The Associated Press is reporting that the decision by the University of Minnesota football team to end its “boycott” to protest the suspension of 10 players alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman, was not as final as first reported.

The story presented by U of M president Eric Kaler was that the players accepted his explanation for the school’s investigation into the players’ actions.

But AP’s Jon Krawczysnki reports today that the players were so upset by Kaler taking credit that they wanted to reinstate the boycott.

The players met with two regents — Darrin Rosha and Michael Hsu — who had been vocal in their opposition to the school’s sexual assault policies in the past.

Krawczysnki says Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle heard about the pending meeting and tried an end-around.

Kaler and Coyle tried to re-engage the players before Hsu and Rosha could meet with them that night. They offered to reinstate the second group of five players for the bowl, but pulled that back when the university said the woman who made the accusations would have to approve that, four people involved in the discussions told the AP.

Kaler and Coyle left talks with the players before 9 p.m. without an agreement and players prepared to skip the game. The players invited the regents in, according to three people who were there, and a marathon discussion lasted until dawn.

“We weren’t negotiating,” Hsu said. “We had nothing to give them. We were only there to talk to them, help understand them, help them understand us, the university, us as regents. Help them think through the ramifications.”

They talked about criticism the team received after announcing the boycott with a statement that paid little attention to the allegations made by the woman. If they pulled out of the bowl game, would they look like they were defending sexual assault?

“They appeared to really want to get it right for all involved: the reporting student, the public, the university, the team,” Rosha said. “While they didn’t seem sure about what the right approach was, they did conclude it wasn’t maintaining the boycott.”