There is no doubt the indefinite suspension of 10 Gophers football players, a result of a sexual assault investigation by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA), is going to have a greater effect on the program beyond the result of the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl game against Washington State in San Diego.
No matter the ultimate outcome for the 10 players, the national publicity from the news could cause one or more of the 16 commitments for the 2017 season to withdraw because rival schools will use the story to convince recruits to reconsider attending Minnesota. Some current Gophers players also could transfer in fear of the repercussions, especially because the case will not be tried until the start of spring semester.
Some of the program’s followers find it hard to understand why the action was taken after the four players originally suspended for the Sept. 2 incident were not charged by Minneapolis police and later allowed to play. But universities have a process of investigating sexual assaults that is different from legal investigations.
The level of involvement in the incident by the 10 players in unknown to the public at this point.
As a result of the action by the EOAA, none of the 10 will play in the Holiday Bowl, a fact confirmed in a letter University President Eric Kaler sent to boosters Tuesday. In addition, the appeal process likely will occur after the game is played.
From a football standpoint, the team will really suffer because two of the starting defensive backs, Antonio Winfield Jr. and KiAnte Hardin, and their backups, Ray Buford and Antonio Shenault, are among the 10 suspended players. Washington State has an outstanding passing game, and the Gophers will face the Cougars with a young and inexperienced secondary.
If any former athletic director deserves to have a building named after him, it would be Joel Maturi, who ran a fantastic program during the 10 years (2002-2012) he was Gophers AD.
One reason the university’s women’s sports teams are having so much success of late is because Maturi actually spent more time working to make those programs successful than he did even the men’s programs. He also hired some outstanding coaches, such as football coach Jerry Kill, men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith and volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.
Now the university is going to show their appreciation for Maturi’s contributions by naming the Sports Pavilion after him.
One mistake Kaler made was not allowing Maturi to serve one more year as AD, as he desired. If Kaler had done so, he probably wouldn’t have wound up with the mess created by Maturi’s replacement, Norwood Teague. Maturi is staying active with the NCAA by serving on the infractions committee.
The Vikings are clinging to their slim playoff chances, but there is some good news trickling out of Winter Park. Running back Adrian Peterson is nearly ready to play after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee Sept. 22, and his chance to show his talent could mean he’ll be back with the team next season. The rehab of offensive tackle Matt Kalil’s hip injury also is coming along fine.
Kalil says he will be “perfectly healthy next year,” but that doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily be with the Vikings. This is the final year of his rookie deal. The Vikings picked up his fifth-year option before this season for $11.1 million, but after this year he’s an unrestricted free agent and could sign with any team.
Kalil, who hadn’t missed a single game until this season, was asked about his rehab and his injury.
“It’s coming along great,” he said. “I’m just doing rehab every day and getting back. I should be pretty healthy in the next couple months here.
“I got my hip ’scoped and had stuff in my hip I had to get cleaned up.”
Kalil said the hardest thing for him this season has been watching the offensive line struggle because of all the injuries he and his linemates have suffered.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You don’t like to see those guys get hurt and right now [it’s difficult] sitting out and not being able to play. I feel for them if they can’t do what they want to do [because of] getting hurt.”
• The New York Times ran a glowing profile of Eden Prairie senior hockey player Casey Mittelstadt, the presumed first-round NHL draft pick who decided against playing a full season of junior hockey in order to play at Eden Prairie and chase a state title. Eden Prairie is No. 1 in Class 2A and Mittelstadt leads the Eagles with 11 points. The article also pointed out that Mittelstadt was the lone high school player on the United States under-18 team that won the bronze medal in the world championships last April. He had nine points in seven games in that tournament.
• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on the challenges presented by the Colts, Sunday’s opponent: “Well, they have the eighth-best rusher in NFL history, so that’s kind of a challenge. Frank Gore [12,830 career yards] is a terrific back. They’ve got tremendous skill with [wide receivers Donte] Moncrief and [T.Y.] Hilton, obviously. They’ve got great speed. They’ve got two decent tight ends. One’s a second-leading receiver [on the Colts, Jack Doyle] and defensively, the 3-4 stuff. We’ve been in a little bit of a 4-3 mode the last couple of weeks. So we’ve got to get back to [facing] the 3-4 and the things we do there and changing some of that up.”
• Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford on seeing Peterson back on the practice field Wednesday: “Obviously it was great to see him out here in the walk-through. I think he’s just one of those guys, he has been a leader on this team. He’s one of the best players in this league and he has been for quite some time. So I think just having him back out at practice in the huddle, I think it’s a definite lift to our guys.”
• The Timberwolves have been on national TV a lot lately. They have a 7-18 record after their 21-point comeback victory against the Bulls on Tuesday, but nearly all the national analysts think this is the best young team in the NBA. Why? Only three teams have three players averaging over 20 points per game: the Wolves (Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine), the Warriors (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson) and the Cavaliers (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love).
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org