Auburn implements new cooperation policy amid Harsin probe

auburn football
Andy Lewis/Getty Images
0 Comments

AUBURN, Ala. — Amid an investigation into football coach Bryan Harsin, Auburn University has implemented a new policy stating that employees can be fired for not cooperating with an investigation or review.

The new policy, which went into effect on Tuesday, states that violations “may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.” It was titled the “Employee Duty to Cooperate Policy.”

The university is looking into the football program, which has lost 18 players and five assistant coaches since the end of Harsin’s first season. The defections came after the Tigers lost their final five games and finished with a 6-7 record.

Harsin attended a meeting of Southeastern Conference coaches on Thursday at league headquarters in Birmingham. Harsin, escorted by a state trooper, entered through a side alley while reporters staked out other entrances to the building.

Auburn did not immediately respond to a question about the reasons for the new policy or whether it was related to the Harsin investigation.

The policy states, in part: “Employees have a duty to cooperate fully and truthfully with investigations, inquiries, and reviews relating to their university responsibilities and professional obligations. For example, employees must do the following: cooperate in sharing requested information and participating in interviews; produce all requested university documentation within their custody or command; disclose additional information relevant to the investigation or review; and maintain confidentiality as advised.”

Harsin maintained in an interview with ESPN last week that he’s “not planning on going anywhere.” Auburn released a statement on Monday saying university officials are “judiciously collecting information” from sources, including student-athletes.

Harsin arrived at Auburn after being hired away from Boise State in December 2020.

Newly hired offensive coordinator Austin Davis announced he was resigning for personal reasons after replacing a fired Mike Bobo. In January, defensive coordinator Derek Mason left for Oklahoma State.

Harsin’s contract runs through the 2026 season and averages $5.25 million per season. If he is fired without cause, Auburn would owe Harsin 70% of the remaining value of the deal, or about $18 million.

Harsin replaced Gus Malzahn, who was fired after last season and received a buyout of $21.45 million.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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
1 Comment

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.