Minnesota players end boycott, will play in Holiday Bowl

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Minnesota Golden Gophers head football coach Tracy Claeys watches the action during the game against the Central Michigan Chippewas on December 28, 2015 during the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO – University of Minnesota players announced Saturday that they have ended a boycott of football activities in an effort to reinstate 10 suspended teammates and will play in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The players ended the boycott following “many hours of discussion within our team” and a meeting with university President Eric Kaler when “it became clear that our original request of having the 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen,” senior receiver Drew¬†Wolitarsky said Saturday.

Kaler and Director of Athletics Mark Coyle agreed Friday night to give all 10 players “a fair hearing, which includes a diverse review panel” and a “showing of support for our team and the character shown by the great majority of our players,” Wolitarsky said.

The agreement also included the pledge by the team’s senior group “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,” Wolitarsky said.

More details of those plans will be announced later, said Wolitarsky, a graduate of Canyon High School in the Los Angeles County community of Santa Clarita.

Kaler said he was “very pleased that the football team has realized the opportunity to represent the University of Minnesota. They’ve come out strongly in support of the victims of sexual violence and I have promised a very fair hearing to the students involved.”

The suspensions came in response to a sexual assault investigation that did not result in criminal charges, but did lead to an investigation by the school’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office.

The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune reported the office recommended that four players be expelled and six others suspended for one year for their roles in the incident.

The players on Thursday announced a boycott of all football activities until the suspensions were overturned.

The boycott’s larger goal was “to have an open discussion about the lack of due process that occurs when an accusation is made against anyone,” Wolitarsky said.

The suspensions of 10 players were announced Tuesday. Five of the players were previously suspended.

The team was “disappointed at the lack of communication from the administration and their unwillingness to share information about the decision under the cover of student privacy,” Wolitarsky said.

“We also understand that they have requirements that they need to follow about sharing information,” Wolitarsky said. “Yet at the same time, we observed how our teammates’ names and pictures were shared with the world and reputations ruined.”

The Golden Gophers will face Washington State in the Holiday Bowl in a matchup of 8-4 teams.

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