Florida coach Mullen shutters media access for the week

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK
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GAINESVILLE, Fla.- Dan Mullen‘s strange and subpar season took another twist Monday when the Florida coach canceled media access to players and coordinators for the remainder of the week.

It came two days after a 34-7 drubbing to rival Georgia in nearby Jacksonville, the program’s seventh loss in its last nine games against Power Five opponents.

Mullen seemed frustrated earlier Monday as he shot down a question about recruiting during a 12 1/2-minute media session that was described by school officials as being fit into a “tight window.”

“We’re in the season right now,” said Mullen, who can’t be on the road recruiting because of NCAA sanctions that included a one-year, show-cause penalty. “We’ll do recruiting after the season. When it gets to recruiting time, we can talk about recruiting.”

It’s become a sore subject for Mullen and a hot topic for Florida fans. Georgia has signed a higher-ranked class every year since 2014, waves of talent that include 26 more five-star recruits than the Gators have landed.

Florida’s 2022 class now ranks 22nd in the nation following two recent decommitments; linebacker Shemar James of Mobile, Alabama, and cornerback Julian Humphrey of Houston withdrew verbal commitments following LSU’s stunning upset of Florida last month.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, either intentionally or inadvertently, took a shot at Mullen and the Gators following Saturday’s game.

“There’s no coach out there that can outcoach recruiting,” Smart said. “I don’t care who you are. The best coach to ever play the game better be a good recruiter because no coaching is going to out-coach players.”

Smart was just getting started, too.

“It’s 25% evaluation, that’s 50% recruiting and another 25% is going to be coaching,” he added. “But if you don’t recruit guys, you got no chance. Just go look at the best teams out there. They got good football players. And that’s the reason I believe in recruiting and I believe you better always be recruiting because, if you’re not, somebody else is.”

Florida has other issues, none more concerning than 16 turnovers in eight games, but a lack of talent and depth would be close to the top of the list.

Still, the Gators (4-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) were a couple plays away from winning close games against then-No. 1 Alabama, Kentucky and LSU.

“We have to live in the reality world, not in the perception world,” Mullen said. “The noise is kind of the perception on the outside, a lot of it. We live with our guys, which is focused in on how we got to get better, what we did well, what we did poorly.

“You forget these guys are 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids, a lot of them, so they’re on social media all the time. . I pay enough (attention) that I know what our guys will have to deal with, but then we get back to the reality. `Hey, here’s things we did well. Here’s things we did poorly. Here’s areas we need to improve in.’ We kind of live in that world to address things.”

The Gators play at South Carolina (4-4, 1-4) on Saturday, the first of four consecutive games in which Mullen’s team should be double-digit favorites. Florida already is an 18+-point favorite against the Gamecocks, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

The closing stretch to the regular season also includes games against Samford (3-5), Missouri (4-4) and Florida State (3-5). Winning all four could help Mullen change the narrative.

“It’s six inches from a pat on the back and a kick in the rear,” Mullen said. “In the SEC, you’re either getting one or the other. There’s no in-between. There’s no, `I guess everything’s OK.’ That’s why I say the perception and the reality. The perception is everything’s perfect or everything’s horrendous. Reality, we’re probably more in the middle somewhere and you’re just trying to figure out how to improve and get better.

“When it seems to be going good, it’s probably not as good as everyone perceives it to be. There’s probably some issues we need to go fix,” he said. “When it’s going bad, it’s probably not as bad as it’s going and we just have a couple things, we have areas we got to improve in.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.