Gavin Holmes’ return for Baylor has some Bears ‘at loss for words’

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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When Gavin Holmes weaved through the defense past would-be tacklers and broke free for the end zone on a punt return in the season opener, his Baylor teammates couldn’t contain their excitement.

More than the 72-yard touchdown return, this celebration was about the sixth-year player who scored it. Holmes missed all of the Bears’ Big 12 championship season last year because of a broken right foot, and that was after being limited to one game and missing their other conference title game during a two-season span when he twice tore the ACL in his left knee.

“He scored, and I was like, `Yes!’ I was at a loss for words because I knew how much it meant to him, I know how much it meant to the team and I knew how much it meant to his parents,” fifth-year Baylor cornerback Mark Milton said this week. “It was a blessing. A lot of people would have given up, but he didn’t.”

Not after five surgeries on his left knee, and all of the rehab that came with those. Not after the broken foot with ligament issues in the spring following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he had 33 catches while playing in all nine games.

“I’ve always said I wanted to play until I physically can’t anymore, because I love this game. It’s all I’ve been doing my whole life,” Holmes said. “I’ve learned so much about myself in this process. And I know that I can still follow my dreams, chase my dreams and do what I want to do. So that really pushed me to keep going.”

In the first quarter of ninth-ranked Baylor’s season-opening 69-10 win over FCS team Albany, Holmes fielded a punt, escaped the grasp of an initial defender and then eluded several others. The final sprint was along the same sideline as the Baylor bench.

“So cool,” coach Dave Aranda said, aptly describing that entire sequence.

“I would hope that my son and my daughters kind of have the heart that he has, and just the awareness and the compassion that he has,” Aranda said. “So you root hard for guys like that. And for him to have an opportunity, man, that’s so cool. It could not happen to a better dude.”

Holmes, whose whole family was at the game, said the love and embrace he got from his teammates and coaches after the score was a feeling that he will never forget.

As for what Aranda said about him, Holmes said it was cool to hear.

“Just my journey, my testimony and all that … I want to be an influence to people, who especially are going through things like that I have been through,” Holmes said. “To hear coach Aranda say that about me, especially in reference to his own children, that’s amazing. I’m really appreciative and thankful that God has put me in this position to influence people like that.”

After being part of former coach Matt Rhule‘s first signing class in February 2017, Holmes started four of the nine games he played in later that fall as a true freshman before his first torn ACL late that season. He has played in only 11 games since, including those nine in 2020.

Holmes already has his undergraduate degree in health, kinesiology and leisure studies. But he wasn’t ready to be done playing for the Bears, who are at No. 21 BYU.

“I just want to contribute to the team in the best way that I can,” he said. “I’m surrounded by great guys and selfishly, it was fun being a part of that Big 12 championship last year, but I want to win one where I’m on the field.”

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.