At FIU, the process of grieving Luke Knox is just beginning

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MIAMI — Practice ended at Florida International on a steamy morning, and coach Mike MacIntyre gathered the team to go over the plan for the rest of the day.

When he was finished, there was one last order of business.

“Let’s have a prayer,” MacIntyre said. “A prayer for Luke’s family.”

Football resumed at FIU two days after 22-year-old linebacker Luke Knox – the brother of Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox – died in a Miami hospital. The cause of death still has not been announced, though police have said foul play is not believed to have been involved.

MacIntyre has been close with Knox’s family for decades. He’s known David Knox, Luke Knox’s father, for more than 40 years. MacIntyre went to Brentwood Academy in Tennessee, the same prep school that many in the Knox family attended.

He coached Luke Knox at Mississippi, and MacIntyre taking over at FIU after last season is part of the reason why Knox transferred there.

MacIntyre and his team spent the day off the field grieving, snacking on pizza, and chicken sandwiches, trying to watch a movie, telling stories about Knox, sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, often hugging. The next day, they got back to football.

“There’s no perfect formula, but you love the kids, you’re with them, you’re listening to what they say,” MacIntyre said. “And like I told every one of them, and our coaches reiterated it multiple times, everybody grieves differently. You don’t know when it’s going to hit you. So, we allowed our kids to say, `I want to practice, I don’t want to practice,’ and I think that they’ve you handled it the best they can.”

Most players chose to practice. Some asked to be excused, instead spending time with counselors and psychologists.

Luke Knox was unresponsive when found in his dorm room there by a teammate, police said. Police officers administered CPR upon arrival, and county rescue personnel took over when they came to transport Knox to a nearby hospital.

MacIntyre spent hours there, hoping for a miracle. He then went to the airport to pick up Knox’s parents in the wee hours.

“We’re in the process of working through this,” MacIntyre said.

He has had to deal with something similar before, at Georgia Tech in the late 1980s, when one of his teammates, tight end Chris Caudle, drowned in a boating mishap. MacIntyre said he also had been getting calls from other coaches who have lost a player.

Lane Kiffin, who coached Knox at Ole Miss, said he was thankful for having known him.

“Really neat kid,” Kiffin said. “Got to spend a lot of 1-on-1 time with him. I’m fortunate for that. Sometimes you don’t because you’ve got so many players. Just happened to with him. It’s very unfortunate. … He impacted a lot of people. Probably more than he imagined, and you can see that from the reaction from so many people hurt.”

Some of that hurt has been turned to good.

Dawson Knox has helped raise funds for the P.U.N.T. Pediatric Cancer Collaborative in the Buffalo area during his time with the Bills. In a span of about 24 hours following the announcement of Luke Knox’s death, the organization received more than $100,000 in donations.

Most of those donations were for exactly $16.88. The 16 signifies Luke Knox’s jersey number at FIU, the 88 signifying Dawson Knox’s number with the Bills.

Dawson Knox announced that services for his brother will take place in Tennessee, adding that his family is thankful “for the outpouring of love and support.” FIU is also deciding how it wants to honor Knox throughout this season, with MacIntyre saying he would leave that primarily up to the leaders on the team.

The first of their many tributes came after the post-practice prayer. Their final chant as they broke the huddle was “1, 2, 3, Luke.”

“I thought that was very fitting,” MacIntyre said.

And when he said that, he was no longer able to hold back his tears.

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.