Iowa coach disbands diversity group created after 2020 probe

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has disbanded an alumni advisory committee that was created after a 2020 investigation found evidence of racial bias against Black players in his program and bullying behavior by some of his assistants.

The Gazette reports that Ferentz’s decision to end the committee came shortly after its leader, former offensive lineman David Porter, suggested it was time for Iowa to part ways with Ferentz. But Ferentz said he had decided to overhaul the committee last fall before Porter made his comment to other committee members in a text message.

“I have come to a decision that this is an appropriate time to dissolve our committee as it stands currently,” Ferentz wrote in an email to the 10-member committee on Tuesday. “As we start a new calendar year and prepare to move forward with our preparation for the 2022 season, I am giving thought to how we restructure the committee/board in a way that best serves our program moving forward.”

In 2020, the university hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to review the program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation following the death of George Floyd and after attempts to raise concerns inside the program resulted in only minor changes.

The report said that some of the football program’s rules “perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity.”

The program cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle after agreeing to pay him $1.1 million severance, but Ferentz resisted making other changes to his staff. Doyle has denied allegations that he bullied and discriminated against players.

Clearly, university leaders still have confidence in Ferentz because the Iowa Athletic Department announced Friday that his contract has been extended through the 2029 season. Ferentz, who has led Iowa since 1999, is the nation’s longest-tenured FBS head coach.

Ferentz said in a statement that his program learned from the committee’s work and he believes “we can be a team and celebrate players as individuals.” He said he appreciates “the time and dedication of those volunteer members who shared ideas and best practices.”

But Porter said he is disappointed that Ferentz appears to have ended the committee without a plan to continue its work, which remains unfinished.

“Our overarching theme was making sure that when kids go through the program they feel safe and protected,” Porter said. “Fear and intimidation is an issue we want to make sure we can address.”

Porter said the further away the group got from the 2020 report there seemed to be less urgency to address the issues even though a lawsuit 13 former players filed accusing the university of discrimination remains pending.

“For a while we were making good progress,” he said. “But as you get further away from the initial situation and issue, people tend to lose focus on why we were formed in the first place.”

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

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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

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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.