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U of M regents to review punishment of Gopher football players

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents on Friday announced it will review the disciplinary decisions that followed an alleged sexual assault by several Gopher football players.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents on Friday announced it will review the disciplinary decisions that followed an alleged sexual assault by several Gopher football players.

Regents Michael Hsu and Darrin Rosha have criticized athletics director Mark Coyle and U of M President Eric Kaler for lifting the suspensions of four players in October, when prosecutors announced they would not be charged, only to suspend the same players and six others in December.

Discipline for five of those players has been upheld by the university's provost, who heard appeals from Ray Buford, Tamarion Johnson, Dior Johnson, KiAnte Hardin and Carlton Djam.

It was determined that Buford, Tamarion Johnson, Dior Johnson and Hardin should be expelled for their roles in the Sept. 2 incident, as initially recommended, and that Djam remain suspended for one year.

Hsu and Rosha had prepared a resolution for Friday's meeting in Duluth, saying that reinstating the players appeared "inconsistent with the Regents' commitment to addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus and protecting those who report sexual assault."

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However, board chairman Dean Johnson announced the review himself at the end of Friday's meeting. There was no formal resolution or a vote by the board.

Hsu said afterward it was "a slight compromise on our part" after two months of behind-the-scenes discussions among the regents. He and Rosha wanted an external investigation; instead, the review will be led by the U's chief auditor, who will engage outside experts as needed, Johnson said.

"When we encounter challenging situations, we must take a step back and learn so that we can do better in the future," Johnson said.

The review is due in May.

When the university suspended 10 players from the Twin Cities campus before the Holiday Bowl, the football team responded with a short-lived boycott.

The Hsu and Rosha resolution called the boycott "detrimental to the University's reputation and standing in Minnesota and beyond" and charged administrators with making "inconsistent statements and descriptions of the events ... regarding the timing and basis for (their) actions and decisions."

An independent investigation into those decisions, the resolution said, would "clarify and confirm accountability for actions taken" and identify areas for improvement.

In an interview after Friday's meeting in Duluth, Johnson said the review will cover documents and personnel involved.

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"We agreed as regents we wanted to review the policies of the student code of conduct universitywide: the policies, the protocol, the practice. Were things done correctly?" he said.

The provost's decisions could bring the case to a close. A series of university hearings and appeals related to the alleged sexual assault met the university's final step when the provost ruled on the final five cases. The players still could appeal through the courts.

Five others will not be punished, attorney Ryan Pacyga said. They are Antoine Winfield Jr., Mark Williams, Kobe McCrary, Antonio Shenault and Seth Green.

Jana Hollingsworth of the News Tribune contributed to this report.

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