The firing of University of Minnesota football coach Tracy Claeys, while difficult, was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do for the university, for the state and for the football players.
I see this as an ethics issue. When you agree to put on a uniform for an institution such as the U, you understand that you represent not only yourself, but the university and our greater community. As a member of this unique club, your actions represent our values as an educational community and the values of our great state as well. You are saying that your actions will not dishonor or embarrass other members of this club, this university or this state. When individuals of this club act dishonorably, the only way to restore honor to the community is to acknowledge the behavior and adhere to a corrective action plan.
I wish Claeys would have done his job by communicating this to the players before they embarrassed themselves, the university and the state by implying they were more important than the code of ethics demanded of them as members of this elite club. As a coach, this was his most important job. Winning without integrity or honor is not winning at all.
The university will receive a large backlash by those within our society who have forgotten the importance of ethics and integrity — that they are required to maintain civility and excellence in society. As for me, I have never been so proud of the University of Minnesota or to be a Minnesotan.
Cheryl ODaniel, Apple Valley
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A coach stands behind his beleaguered players in a social-media missive that says only that he’s proud of them and respects their rights. The coach helps his team reach an impressive win-loss record in his first year on the job. The team goes to a bowl game, wins, and the coach’s eyes are filled with tears of pride for his athletes. The players surround the coach and thank him for his leadership. The university administration could care less.
Best wishes to the University of Minnesota athletic program, because it is now in need of all the help anyone can expect. Imagine being a high school athlete, regardless of your sport, being recruited by Minnesota. Who wants to play for a team whose administration does not back its coaches, is utterly indifferent to its student-athletes, and who insults fans with reactionary decisions with no basis?
University President Eric Kaler and company are, at best, mediocre, paranoid administrators whose aim is only to foster a “go along to get along” process. This is not a winning strategy, and one for which the U will pay a hefty price for years to come. This decision is simply insulting, shameful and wrong.
Tom Bredeson, Eden Prairie
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Perhaps Coach Claeys could have had a team of more mature young men, not obsessed with sex parties, if he did not refer to them as “kids.” I cringed every time I heard him use this pre-adult name for these college men.
Rita Speltz, St. Paul
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To the Gopher football players: Your coach may have been one of the best influences in your short lives. Many are sad to see him go. The reality is it’s all your own fault. Time after time, we — as the people paying for your adventure — see players getting involved in really bad behavior or criminal activities. I played college ball and know nearly every kid on your team knew what was going on and none of you had the fortitude to stop it. Whether the coach was recruiting less-than-intelligent players with no morals or there is an atmosphere of elitism and being above the rules of common decency, it’s in your lap. The Gophers will never be an elite program until the players and coaches raise the bar and accept only the highest-quality individuals and police their own behavior. That’s the biggest responsibility of being a team captain or senior player.
Jeff Carlson, St. Louis Park
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What have the student-athletes learned by Coyle firing their coach?
Did they learn that adults who stick up for and support them are expendable?
Did they learn that they are only athletes who are threatened with denied scholarships for opposing those in power?
Did they learn that ego is more important than education?
Did they learn that they lose for practicing those goals of teamwork and helping one another?
Did the students find that what they do is much more important than who they are?
Is this a learning experience that teaches life skills, and are those skills only to keep your head down, keep quiet and obey “The Man”?
Apparently, althetic director Mark Coyle only wants the best winning record that money can buy and the student-athletes are only pawns.
Sorry, students-athletes — you are getting an education, but not one you had hoped to get by attending the University of Minnesota.
John Reay, St. Paul
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Claeys was in a no-win situation: Support the team and lose the support of the administration, or disapprove of the behavior of (some) players and lose the loyalty of the team. The administration was, likewise, between a rock and a hard place: Let it ride (do nothing) in the face of the Hennepin County attorney’s twice-announced decision that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the alleged culprits (thus invoking the wrath of both the university and wider communities), or coming down hard on somebody. The result: a situation that is unpopular and controversial in all quarters.
The fault for all of this lies with the (alleged) perpetrators, and the victim is all of us. Let us hope that we can learn from this tragedy — that a few bad apples can cause havoc in the larger community, and that at a great university there are goals and ideals that are more important than winning and, indeed, loyalty.
Lloyd K. Sines, Big Lake, Minn.
The writer is a University of Minnesota emeritus professor.
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One of the reasons said for Claeys’ firing was low attendance this year. The Gophers doubled the prices on season-ticket holders, so I think that is the reason for lower attendance and not the product on the field. It will take many years for the football team to be competitive again with a coaching change. I blame the administration for what happened, and Coach Claeys is the fall guy.
Matthew Nelson, Oracle, Ariz.
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The Jan. 4 story in the Sports section about Claeys’ firing was accompanied by the results of a “StarTribune.com Poll” in which 62 percent of respondents said his firing was the wrong decision and 38 percent said it was right. The accompanying disclaimer: “This poll is for entertainment purposes only. Readers should not interpret its results as an accurate reflection of public opinion.” In survey research, the word “poll” has a specific meaning defined by scientific sampling, data collection and data analysis methodology. This was not a poll by any definition of the word. What’s more, the statement that the “poll is for entertainment purposes only” was appalling. Nothing about this story, those involved or its aftermath is entertaining. Shame on the Star Tribune for debasing polling, and for the trivial treatment of a serious news story.
Sandra Nelson, Minneapolis