Tracy Claeys spelled out reasons he should remain as Gophers football coach Sunday for WCCO (830-AM), including the team's academic success, on-field gains and "very minimal" off-field instances over the past six years.
Claeys is expected to meet with Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle on Tuesday, preceding any announcement about the coach's future, three sources said this weekend. Claeys told WCCO he's not sure the Tuesday timing is "set in stone" but said he looks forward to meeting with Coyle.
"We feel like we continue to get better," Claeys said. "We feel like this has been the best year since we've been here. The kids — our team's GPA is above a 3.0 and has been six of the last seven semesters.
"And our graduation rate is as high as it's been since they started keeping it, and the same with the APR [Academic Progress Rate] — to be the highest public school in the country with the APR. So not only are we getting better on the football field, the kids are going to class, they're graduating."
The Gophers went 9-4 this season in their first nine-win season since they went 10-3 under Glen Mason in 2003. But the on-field performance has been clouded with the continuing fallout from an alleged Sept. 2 sexual assault involving players.
Hennepin County has reviewed the case twice and declined to press charges. But Coyle suspended 10 players from the team indefinitely on Dec. 13, after an internal investigation by the university's office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
"I think our instances have been very minimal," Claeys said in his weekly WCCO appearance. "And obviously, on some things, one is too many and we're trying to avoid them all the time. But we need to deal with 17- to 22-year-old kids. Every now and then you're going to have something that you have to deal with.
"But we feel like those are very minimal instances, if you look over the last five or six years, so we feel very good about where we're going."
Claeys said recruiting continues to go well and pointed to the performance of underclassmen such as sophomore Blake Cashman as a sign of a bright future.
Gophers players staged a two-day boycott of football activities last month, in protest of the administration's handling of the 10 suspensions. Claeys tweeted his support for the players, which publicly aligned him against the administration.
The tweet said: "Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights and support their effort to make a better world!"
Asked Sunday on WCCO if he still feels the public's support in the wake of that tweet, Claeys said: "Yeah, I do. And I also understand it's a slippery slope and there's going to be people on both sides. But as I said the other night, maybe I could have worded [the tweet] a little bit better, but in no way would I ever be in support of people being affected by sexual assault or anything like that.
"But it's good to work through all that. It's a learning experience for everyone, but we have high standards, and we'll always continue to do that and move through it. And nobody associated with the program will ever, in any way, be supportive of sexual assault or sexual misconduct."
On the team's 9-4 finish, Claeys told WCCO: "I think to get to that ninth win was a big step and it'll be a big spring forward for us in the future."
Asked specifically about his expectations heading into Tuesday's meeting with Coyle, Claeys said: "I don't know. I'm not one that believes in doing all that through the media, and in fact … I don't know if [Tuesday] is set in stone or not for sure. We're both going to get back in town this week, and we'll get together. But hey, I look forward to sitting down and visiting with Mark and just seeing where we go, but all of that I think is much better handled behind closed doors and not through the media."