10 Minnesota Golden Gopher football players have been suspended indefinitely from team activities, according to the Pioneer Press’ Andy Greder.
The suspended players are defensive backs KiAnte Hardin, Antonio Shenault, Antoine Winfield, Jr., Ray Buford, and Dior Johnson; quarterbacks Seth Green and Mark Williams; running backs Kobe McCrary and Carlton Djam; and defensive end Tamarion Johnson.
These latest suspensions reportedly stem from the internal Title IX investigation that was launched in the wake of the sexual assault allegations earlier this season. Hardin, Buford, Dior Johnson, and Tamarion Johnson were all suspended prior to the Indiana State game on Sept. 10 after being “mentioned” in a police investigation regarding an incident on the night of Sept. 2. Ultimately, the Hennepin County Attorney reviewed the case and declined to press charges on Oct. 3 based on the available evidence.
The suspensions were then lifted until restraining orders were filed against the four players, plus Djam and defensive back Kiondre Thomas, on Oct. 21 by the alleged victim. The restraining orders barred them from TCF Bank Stadium, where the accuser is a part of football game day operations. The two parties reached an agreement in court on Nov. 2 that led to the restraining orders being dismissed but barred all of the players from contacting the alleged victim until after she graduates.
Once the agreement was reached and the restraining orders lifted, the internal Title IX investigation was launched to determine if the student code of conduct had been violated. The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) and the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity (OSCAI) at the University of Minnesota are responsible for coordinating these recommendations.
If the suspensions continue through the Gophers’ upcoming bowl game against the Washington State Cougars, Minnesota’s defense would be without their starting safety (Winfield) and three of their top four cornerbacks (Hardin, Shenault, Buford) against one of the top passing offenses in the country.
Put simply, this is a disaster for head football coach Tracy Claeys.
According to Darren Wolfson, at least one of the suspended player, if not more, has been recommended for expulsion from the university, but will appeal.
At least 1 of the #Gophers f'ball players suspended has been recommended by the school's EOAA for expulsion. There will be an appeal.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) December 14, 2016
By the way, one of the players recommended for expulsion got an 82 pages letter from the U's EOAA. #Gophers— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) December 14, 2016
Ray Buford, Sr., the father of the Gophers’ redshirt freshman cornerback, has spoken with Greder regarding the suspensions:
The university said it couldn’t provide further information “due to privacy restrictions relating to student educational data,” but a player’s father said it was tied to an earlier incident that embroiled five of the currently suspended players.
Ray Buford Sr., a 17-year law enforcement official in Michigan, told the Pioneer Press that the suspensions are tied to an early-morning incident on Sept. 2 where four players — Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson — were “mentioned” in a Minneapolis Police report that included a woman’s allegations of sexual assault. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office declined Oct. 3 to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.
Buford said the new suspension are the result an investigation by the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) and were relayed at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Buford said “some” of the players were recommended for expulsion from the university, and he added that will be met with appeals.
“The closer you were to the lady, the harsher the recommendation,” Buford said.
The five previously unmentioned players — Seth Green, Antoine Winfield Jr., Antonio Shenault, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams — were tied to the case because they were in the apartment at the time of the alleged incident, Buford said.
“If you were anywhere near the apartment, they added your name to it,” Buford said.
We’ll keep you updated if more information becomes public.
This story has been updated to reflect the latest available news and information.