On Tuesday, Minnesota fired football coach Tracy Claeys after a nine-win season. The decision, made by athletic director Mark Coyle, came in the wake of a sexual assault investigation by the school that led to the suspensions of 10 players.
Claeys publicly supported his players during a short-lived boycott of the Holiday Bowl, which reportedly ended after the players read the details of the investigation.
On Thursday, Claeys joined ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” to discuss his firing and the events leading up to it. During the interview, with reporter Kate Fagan, Claeys questioned the way Coyle addressed the firing in his press conference and press release.
“This all happened because of what happened with the boycott,” Claeys told “Outside the Lines.” “I’m fine with that, but I think that’s the way it should have been handled in the press release rather than try to come out with a bunch of negative stuff.”
In his press release, Coyle said he “determined that the football program must move in a new direction to address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program.” He also mentioned Claeys’ support for the boycott, which came in the form of a tweet, saying that it “was not helpful.”
The Golden Gophers finished the season 9-4, including a win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. It was Claeys’ first full season as head coach. He served in an interim role in 2015 after Jerry Kill stepped aside because of health concerns.
Fagan asked Claeys about his tweet supporting the team and its boycott, and whether he would have tweeted anything different after reading the 82-page report released by the university regarding the sexual assault investigation.
Ex-Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys:
Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world! 〽️?
— GoldenGopherHFC (@GoldenGopherHFC) December 16, 2016
“No, I wouldn’t,” Claeys said. “In no way was the tweet about sexual assault. I would never do that. Anybody in our football program would never support that.
“It was all about how the report came about, the process to put the report together. That’s hard for the kids to understand that it goes from four to 10 players. It had been investigated by the law, and now on campus. It came up with totally different results. I understand there’s a higher standard there, which there should be for athletes.”
Claeys went on to question the process by which the Title IX investigation was conducted.
“Any type of sexual assault or sexual misconduct is serious and needs to be looked at, and you have it looked at and investigated by law enforcement and people trained to investigate that, and they come back with one decision. And it comes back another way in a process that our kids didn’t feel fair. I don’t know how that trumps an all-out police investigation.
“My personal belief, and this is just me on my own, I don’t know if we want a single office on any campus handling anything that would be like a felony-type of charge that will change a kid’s life forever. I’ve seen some of these things on transcripts going through recruiting and transfer kids, some of the things that are put on these transcripts when these kids go through these investigations, these kids have no chance. And there was never any type of criminal charges filed against them. When schools get these and see what’s on them in admissions, they’re hampering these kids for life.
“My own belief is that shouldn’t be handled on campus when you’ve got a chance of ruining a kid’s life.”