There were more questions than answers Friday, as Reggie Lynch planned to appeal a University of Minnesota decision to suspend him from school until at least 2020. Athletic director Mark Coyle cited privacy laws and referred to general university "policies and procedures." Here's an attempt to clarify.
What's the timeline of Lynch and sexual assault allegations at Minnesota?
There have been two allegations of sexual assault against Lynch at the U. This current case is the second one to be made public. It involves an incident in Lynch's dorm room at Roy Wilkins Hall on April 28, 2016.
In May 2016, a month later, he was arrested for an alleged sexual assault in a campus apartment. A 19-year-old woman claimed Lynch raped her that night and Lynch was jailed and released two days later. The Gophers suspended Lynch but reinstated him after the Hennepin County's attorney's office declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence. The University's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) office also investigated the woman's claim and cleared Lynch.
This current case, while it occurred first chronologically, came into public view this week when the latest EOAA's investigation concluded with a recommendation of a university suspension for Lynch that would last until at least 2020.
What do we know about the current case?
The EOAA began its investigation of Lynch for this current case in October, as the alleged victim had come forward about 18 months after the incident. Lynch was scheduled to attend Big Ten Media Days on Oct. 19, but was replaced with Jordan Murphy for what the team called a "schedule conflict." The EOAA investigation concluded this week, and the school's initial finding was to ban Lynch from the university campus until at least August 2020.
Can Lynch appeal?
Yes, and he plans to do so, a source told the Star Tribune on Friday. The appeal means Lynch will not be banned from campus while that process plays out.
Can he play during the appeal process?
Coyle said Friday he suspended him from competition. Coyle said Lynch is still part of the team. Lynch can still be around the team and practice with the team.
Will Lynch be visible at games?
No. The Gophers don't plan to bring Lynch to home or road games during his suspension, a source told the Star Tribune on Friday.
How will Lynch's appeal work?
Lynch plans to appeal through the school's Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee (SSMS). The SSMS appoints a three-member panel with faculty, academic professional and student members to hear the case, usually within one month of the appeal. After the panel makes its ruling, the accuser or accused can appeal that decision to the University provost.
Why the term "sexual misconduct" is being used?
According to records obtained by the Star Tribune, the EOAA's conclusion was that Lynch violated the school's "sexual misconduct" code. The university defines sexual misconduct as "any nonconsensual behavior of a sexual nature that is committed by force or intimidation, or that is otherwise unwelcome." That includes, "sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual or gender-based harassment."
Why was Lynch allowed to play during this EOAA investigation?
This EOAA investigation had no corresponding criminal investigation. "With our process that's in place, any student-athlete — if there's a criminal investigation that's taking place — that student-athlete does not participate," Coyle said. "Any student-athlete involved in an EOAA process can participate until findings are made against him or her."
What does the U's policy say?
On page 6 of the University's Student Athlete Code of Conduct, it says: "Sanctions under this Code, such as an interim suspension, will generally not be imposed before initial findings have been made by EOAA or [Office of Community Standards]." The policy does allow for exceptions if the "substantial, corroborated, and compelling" evidence could lead to suspension or expulsion from the school.
Is that consistent with how the U handled the 2016 football scandal?
Yes. The Gophers suspended four football players in September 2016 for an alleged sexual assault and cleared them after Hennepin County declined to press charges. Five players missed an additional home game because of a restraining order. The EOAA concluded its report in December, and 10 players were suspended from the Holiday Bowl game. After an extensive appeals process, five of the 10 players were cleared, four expelled and one suspended from the University for one year.
Should the Gophers have recruited Lynch in the first place?
"We didn't see any red flags," coach Richard Pitino said Friday when asked about Lynch's background while recruiting him as a transfer from Illinois State. Pitino said they did their background work on Lynch.
Did Pitino have a role in punishment?
"When things like this happen, you go to your boss," the coach said Friday. "You go to your policies in place. And I feel we did that."
"I support his decision and I was certainly in on it as well, so I support him," he added.
Could this turn into a criminal case?
To be determined. Coyle said he was "not aware" of whether the U has forwarded the case to police. The University police department said Friday it has no pending case on Lynch from April 2016.
If there was no police investigation, why is the university suspending him?
The university is required to investigate reports of sexual assault — whether or not police conduct their own investigation — under federal guidelines that apply to schools that receive federal money.
At the University of Minnesota, a complaint triggers an investigation by the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to see whether the school's student code of conduct was violated. The office can recommend suspension or expulsion from school.
According to the university's procedure for enforcing the student conduct code, students are entitled to a hearing and have the right of appeal.
Why is the burden of proof different?
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education directed schools to use a "preponderance of evidence" standard when investigating sexual assault, meaning only that it's more likely than not that an assault occurred. That's a much lower standard than reasonable doubt.
Also, last year the University of Minnesota adopted an "affirmative consent" policy, meaning both parties have to clearly agree to the sexual contact; otherwise, it's sexual assault. In other words, it's not enough that she didn't say no.
Schools that fail to take reports of sexual violence seriously risk violating Title IX, the federal law against sex discrimination in education. They could lose millions of dollars in federal funding.
Is this the end of Lynch's playing career?
Impossible to say. If Lynch wins an appeal, he could be back with the team this season, if Coyle allows. If Lynch is not successful in his appeal, it's hard to imagine him playing for the Gophers again. He's a senior. He is considered an NBA prospect but was not expected to be drafted. Between the NBA's G League and foreign leagues, there are plenty of places for a high-level college player to land under the NBA level.
Staff writers Maura Lerner, Brandon Stahl and Marcus Fuller contributed to this report