FAMU players asks school president for ‘changes made now’

Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat/USA TODAY NETWORK
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A&M’s football team, which considered not traveling for its season opener at North Carolina last week, is openly questioning the level of financial and compliance support players are receiving from the university.

Nearly 90 players penned a blistering letter to school president Larry Robinson a day after the team lost 56-24 to the Tar Hills while playing without 26 ineligible players. FAMU was paid $450,000 to make the trip to Chapel Hill.

The letter implored Robinson for “changes made now” and says “we are not interested in further empty dialogue with you or your staff.” The letter says players knelt in protest during two school songs played after the game and will continue to do so “until significant changes that facilitate a positive student-athlete experience are made.”

FAMU plays Jackson State in the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami on Sunday, a game nationally televised on ESPN2.

The letter clarifies players were ruled ineligible not for academic performance but rather because of “procedural issues within the registrar’s office, compliance department and academic advisement.” FAMU has one compliance and one academic adviser for athletics, according to the university.

Among the issues spelled out in the letter involve financial aid was not awarded in a timely manner to buy books, register for classes and avoid evictions.

The university responded by saying it is committed to maintaining a culture of compliance and conforming with NCAA guidelines.

“We are confident that our processes are effective and timely,” the school said Tuesday. “We will continue to monitor our efforts in this regard and pursue all avenues to provide an excellent student experience to every athlete. FAMU is committed to upholding high standards and rigorous adherence to NCAA guidelines.”

The letter alleges issues with the “student-athlete experience at FAMU,” which has the second-largest enrollment of any of the Historically Black Colleges or Universities in the U.S. It also says there’s no student-athlete representation on the committee searching for a new athletic director. Former FAMU athletic director Kortne Gosha resigned in April and has since been hired by Tulane as a senior associate athletic director.

Among the players ruled ineligible were linebacker Isaiah Land, the top defender in the Football Championship Subdivision last season and a potential NFL draft prospect in 2023, and right tackle Cam Covin. Land and Covin have retained attorney Tom Mars, who has a history of helping college players through NCAA eligibility issues.

“I don’t think anyone in college sports has ever witnessed a bigger blunder on the part of the university or a more unfair punishment aimed at the players – the only people in this mess who did everything right,” Mars said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“If a parent fails to file a tax return, the IRS doesn’t punish their kids. But this is the college sports equivalent of doing just that.”

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.