Former Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys said he would have done some things differently last year but ultimately is proud of the culture and his team’s success on the field and in the classroom, the ex-coach wrote in a commentary piece published Wednesday on the Star Tribune Editorial page.
Claeys was responding to a report last week that stated “weak leadership” of the football team was a main culprit in the turmoil that engulfed the university last December following the suspension of 10 football players after an alleged sexual assault and the ensuing boycott by the team. The report was commissioned by the University of Minnesota, using the local Dorsey & Whitney law firm.
“In light of this new report, are there things I would’ve done differently? Certainly,” Claeys wrote, specifically mentioning regretting a Twitter message about supporting his players that “generated more questions than it answered,” and wishing he would have canceled a mandated trip to San Diego to promote the team’s bowl game that occurred during the controversy.
“I like to think, though, that as a coach I respected my team’s decision, responsibly addressed the situation and quickly defused the boycott. Could it have been handled more smoothly? Maybe. Could it have gone much worse? Without a doubt.”
The Star Tribune contacted Claeys last week when Dorsey & Whitney’s report was released, but the coach declined to comment.
The report said the coaching staff contributed to a “breakdown in trust” between the football team and university administrators and “helped foster a hostile atmosphere where meaningful dialogue was difficult.”
Claeys highlighted his team’s ability to win their bowl game after the controversy, and their continued improvement in the classroom under his leadership. “Those things don’t just happen by chance,” he wrote.
Claeys mostly avoided any finger-pointing at his former bosses, instead focusing on all parties moving forward.
“Sometimes as coaches we learn more from the players than they learn from us. And that’s a pretty good lesson in leadership.”