One of the most decorated Gophers players of the past 50 years was furious with his alma mater Saturday morning, having just watched University of Minnesota players end their boycott of the team.
“I’m done with the University of Minnesota, unless President [Eric Kaler] and the [athletic director Mark Coyle] get fired,” said Tyrone Carter, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as college football’s top defensive back in 1999. “They got to get a new administration. They’re going to lose kids. I feel bad as a [friend] of Antoine Winfield that he trusted the university with his kid. The way they handled that situation was totally disrespectful.”
Carter, a former Gophers All-America and two-time Super Bowl champion, supported the players’ boycott that came after the suspension of 10 teammates because of an alleged sexual assault, saying it was “about making sure the players got due process,” he said. “I’m proud of those boys. They did it on their own. They knew they weren’t going to get a fair shot.”
The players’ decision to end the boycott early Saturday morning without having their 10 suspended teammates reinstated, the heart of their demand, surprised Carter, as it did many others. Reactions, however, differed.
Now that the Gophers will be playing Washington State on Dec. 27 in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Creative Charters co-founder Steve Erban flew to California on Saturday to make sure the trip for his group of fans is in order.
“I think there are a lot of social issues with this whole thing,” Erban said. “I think it will help the whole process. But I’m really happy for the coaching staff and the whole team to play. I think it’s going to be quite a football game.”
Gophers donor Mark Sheffert, chairman and CEO of Twin Cities-based Manchester Companies Inc., understands why the players ended the boycott and said he couldn’t imagine a scenario in which the suspended players would be reinstated before the investigation appeals hearings next year.
Sheffert said the university needs to always avoid “making an assumption that these kids are guilty.”
Sources told the Star Tribune on Sunday that reading the university investigation report was a main factor in the players ending their boycott. The details in the report on the alleged sexual assault of a female student involving more than 10 players were called a “game-changer” by a source.
“When you talk about that 80-page report, I can see why they would reconsider,” Sheffert said.
He speculated the players also may have realized they were “giving up a bowl game and doing things that would hurt the university by not playing in it,” he said. “That’s not their intent. Their intent was to draw attention to the fact that due process wasn’t being followed.”
When former Gophers football standout Judge Dickson walked around town in Naples, Fla., Saturday morning he was approached by several people asking him about what was happening at his alma mater.
Dickson, a teammate of All-Americas Sandy Stephens and Bobby Bell on the Gophers’ 1960 national championship team, is disappointed in the university’s leadership structure.
“This lack of continual leadership at every level has been eroding for a long time,” he said. “It’s at the point right now that it’s embarrassing all over the country and we’re risking everything.”
He was glad that the players and administration met to try to get to a resolution after the boycott, because he said missing the bowl game would be further embarrassment and hurt recruiting.
“Just because they’re going to the bowl game doesn’t mean the problem goes away,” Dickson said. “We keep damaging ourselves. We will never be a national contender. We will never live up to the Minnesota I know if we don’t start doing things to build better structural leadership.”