Former Gophers basketball star Reggie Lynch said Thursday he will accept his expulsion from the University of Minnesota for sexual misconduct, not because he is guilty but because he can’t get a fair hearing.
That means Lynch’s short-lived, controversy-filled tenure with the Gophers is over on the court and off. In a statement hours after Lynch made his comments, the U pushed back firmly against claims that he was treated unfairly.
“I did not commit any of the acts I’m accused of,” Lynch read from a statement in his first public comments on the allegations. “In today’s climate, people automatically assume you’re guilty. … I am angry there’s no real way to defend myself.”
He made the announcement in a small conference room in his lawyer’s Minneapolis office with his mother, Marlene, and lawyer Ryan Pacyga at his side. Lynch and his mother each read short statements before Pacyga launched into a 30-minute critique of a cultural climate that he said is overprotective of alleged victims of sexual assault while trampling the rights of the accused.
“I have become a victim of false allegations,” Lynch read.
Marlene Lynch said her son is a “happy and harmless young man who has been a valuable part of this community.”
In a carefully crafted statement that took hours to release, the university said Lynch is no longer a student there and is no longer a member of the men’s basketball team. The statement said the U’s values are “crystal clear,” written into university policy and clear to every member of the community.
The statement said there are processes in place to protect “all parties involved in misconduct cases. These include allowing the accused the opportunity to challenge allegations with the benefit of an attorney.”
Neither of the women who filed Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) complaints against Lynch in October wanted to comment Thursday, nor did their attorney, Amy Isenor.
The two women, whose complaints are not related, contacted the U last fall to report incidents they said occurred in April 2016. That spring, Lynch was arrested in another alleged incident, but Hennepin County declined to file charges.
Acting on the two latest complaints, an investigator with the EOAA interviewed the women and Lynch. The investigator found Lynch to be “responsible” for sexual misconduct in a report released in early January. The ruling called for Lynch’s suspension until August 2020 for one incident and his expulsion for the other. Lynch could either accept the result or appeal.
He appealed. His first hearing was set for 1 p.m. Thursday, two hours after his news conference. A hearing on the second woman’s allegations was planned for next week.
The closed-door hearing would have involved a three-person panel of the Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee. After taking testimony from Lynch and the alleged victim, the panel would have voted on whether to agree or disagree with the investigator’s ruling on Lynch’s responsibility. A 2-1 vote would have affirmed the earlier ruling. After that, an appeal to a university administrator would have been an option.
But Pacyga said the subcommittee “isn’t fair and they haven’t been fair to Reggie throughout this process.”
Lynch’s lawyer criticized the U’s process for handling sexual misconduct complaints, saying the investigations were shabby and the hearings were skewed in favor of victims. Pacyga said that 18 months had elapsed before Lynch’s alleged misconduct was reported, yet he was allowed little time to appeal.
“There’s a reason why the courts don’t call an accuser a victim in a trial; they wait until the facts play out,” he said. “Who is the victim? Is it the person who is an accuser? Or is it the accused?”
He said Lynch was interviewed twice last fall by the EOAA investigator without a lawyer and provided text messages. “He had nothing to hide,” Pacyga said.
“That’s why Reggie’s hurting. That’s why Reggie feels like a victim,” Pacyga said. “I think Reggie’s standing up for accused people.”
His lawyer said Lynch has earned his undergraduate degree and will now “pursue his basketball career.”
The U’s statement also noted that the law requires the school to maintain the privacy of all parties.
Lynch, an Edina native, last played for the Gophers on Jan. 3 against Illinois. The Gophers won 77-67 and had a 13-3 record. The Gophers, who also lost key players to injuries, have won one game since Lynch was benched. The team is now 14-14.
While being investigated by the EOAA for both complaints, Lynch was allowed to play for the Gophers through the fall start of the basketball season by Coach Richard Pitino and Athletic Director Mark Coyle.
Lynch, who was recruited by Pitino, transferred from Illinois State to the Gophers in April 2015. He had to sit out the 2015-16 season per NCAA rules.
In May 2016, he was arrested after a freshman accused him of sexual assault.
He was released from jail two days later and suspended from the team. Hennepin County prosecutors announced that Lynch wouldn’t be charged in the case.