Nebraska responds to being named in lawsuit filed against NCAA

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Not surprisingly, an off-field situation has caught the attention of the Nebraska football program specifically and the athletic department in general.

It was reported this week that “[s]even women, including three female athletes, are suing the NCAA, alleging the organization failed to protect them from alleged sexual assaults by male college athletes despite having an obligation to do so.” The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Wednesday.

A former Nebraska volleyball player, Capri Davis, is one of the seven plaintiffs in the suit.  It’s alleged that Davis and another unnamed female student-athlete were groped without consent by two members of the Nebraska football team in the spring of 2019.  While not specifically named in the suit, ESPN.com identified the two Nebraska football players as Katerian LeGrone and Andre Hunt.  The unidentified female has also claimed that she was raped by LeGrone and a different teammate in the fall of 2018.

Twice, Davis, who has since transferred to Texas, and the unidentified female student-athlete went to the school’s Title IX office regarding the groping incident.  Neither time, the suit states, was the incident investigated as required by law.  After learning that Hunt and LeGrone were accused of raping a student, the pair went to the Title IX Office a third time.  This time, an investigation was launched.  That investigation ultimately led to the two Nebraska football players being expelled from the university.

“[The University of Nebraska-Lincoln] has fostered a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults, sexual harassment, stalking, and other forms of general discrimination when those acts are perpetrated by male student-athletes in order to protect UNL, the male athletics program, male student-athletes, and the NCAA, at the expense of female victims,” the lawsuit further stated, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Thursday, the athletic department issued a statement.

“The health and safety of all of our students, including our student-athletes, is of the utmost importance to us,” the university said in its statement. “We have developed a strong Title IX process. … Our student-athletes receive regular education on those types of issues, often presented in conjunction with the Title IX office.”

In late August of last year, Nebraska confirmed that two football players, Hunt, a wide receiver, and LeGrone, a tight end, had been indefinitely suspended by the program for unspecified reasons.  A little over three months later, it was reported that both of the players have been “found to have violated the school’s sexual misconduct policies and face a 2½-year suspension from the university.”

The extended suspension stemmed from an alleged rape of an NU student on Aug. 25 and, even as a police investigation remained open, no criminal charges had been filed.  There was a development on the legal front in mid-December, though, as LeGrone and Hunt were arrested on one count of suspicion of first-degree sexual assault and one count of suspicion of aiding and abetting first-degree sexual assault, respectively, even as neither had been formally charged at the time.

Yet another disturbing development surfaced around that same time as local media reported that an additional six sexual assault reports have been filed with the Lincoln Police Department that “are connected to either one or both of the former Husker players accused of sexual misconduct.” Four of the new reports involved non-consensual sexual penetration, three of which were designated as rape, while two included allegations of inappropriate touching of private parts.

In early December, Hunt and LeGrone entered the NCAA transfer database.

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.