Minnesota’s football players ended their boycott on Saturday and will begin preparations to play in the Holiday Bowl.
The Golden Gophers are scheduled to play Washington State in the Dec. 27 game in San Diego but the players announced their boycott on Thursday night in protest of the school’s decision to suspend 10 players following an investigation into an alleged sexual assault that occurred in September. The players demanded that the players be reinstated immediately.
The team released a statement, which was read by wide receiver senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky, as several players gathered at the football complex Saturday morning.
“As a team, we understand that what has occurred these past few days, and playing football for the University of Minnesota, is larger than just us,” the team said in its statement. “We now ask that you, the members of the media, our fans, and the general public hold all of us accountable for ensuring that our teammates are treated fairly, along with any and all victims of sexual assault. We also ask that the public dialogue related to the apparent lack of due process in a university system is openly discussed and evaluated.
“As football players, we know that we represent this University and this state and that we are held to a higher standard. We want to express our deepest gratitude to our coaching staff and so many others for their support during this difficult time, and we hope that our fans and community understand why we took the actions that we did.
“Our thoughts and prayers are for the well-being of the woman involved in the original incident, and for our 10 teammates to ensure that they are treated fairly. We look forward to representing the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl in a way that makes all of you proud.”
The announcement to end the boycott came after a late Friday night meeting between Gophers players and university president Eric Kaler and other campus leaders.
“After many hours of discussion within our team, and after speaking with President Kaler, it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen,” the team statement said. “Our senior group had a meeting with President Kaler and AD Mark Coyle last night, Friday the 16th, where they agreed to the following requests: That all 10 of these players have a fair hearing — which includes a diverse review panel. Number two, a showing of support for our team and the character shown by the great majority of our players. Finally, that we as a team will use our status as public figures to bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women.”
After Wolitarsky spoke to the media, athletic director Mark Coyle released a statement: “I’m thankful our football team came to a resolution and I’m happy we will be playing in Holiday Bowl vs. Washington State.”
On Friday, Northern Illinois was being lined up as the replacement team for the Holiday Bowl as the Minnesota players continued their boycott of all football activities.
The controversy erupted after Minnesota announced the suspensions.
Police records show that a woman claimed she had consensual sex with two men but her contact with four others was not consensual. The incident allegedly took place on Sept. 3.
No criminal charges were filed against the players, but a school investigation concluded the athletes violated university policy.
“We will judge (the suspended players) very fairly,” university president Kaler said Saturday. “I’m grateful the student athletes ended the boycott.”
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