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Kaler, Claeys Contradicted Each Other on Suspensions, Emails Show

April 12, 2017 09:38 PM

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and former head football Coach Tracy Claeys directly contradicted one another in emails to a university alumnus about the decision to suspend 10 players, according to records obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

In emails dated Dec. 14, both Claeys and Kaler responded to a Carlson School of Management alumnus who sent the same email to each condemning the suspensions and insisting on the reinstitution of the players.

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The emails, obtained via a data request by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, show both recipients, at least in part, dodged responsibility.

"I did not suspend the players! That decision was made above me. Just wanted you to know," Claeys wrote in response to the email sent at 1:51 p.m. 

Two hours later, the alumnus sent the same email to Kaler's office. The president's response:

"The law protecting our students' privacy limits what we are able to say about this situation, but I want to assure you that the decision by Coach Tracy Claeys, which was made in consultation with our Athletics Director Mark Coyle and has my support, is based on facts and on our University's values."

RELATED: Gophers Head Football Coach Claeys Discusses Player Suspensions, Team Boycott

The university has characterized the decision to suspend the players as one made collectively by Coyle and Claeys. 

"When we make decisions, including difficult decisions like I made in consultation with Coach (Tracy) Claeys recently, it will always be with those values in mind," Coyle said during a Dec. 14 press conference. 

Claeys and the school's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action were copied on Kaler's email.

RELATED: Documents Show Contradicting Accounts of What Led to Suspension of 10 Gopher Football Players

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS requested emails and text messages sent or received by Kaler, Claeys and Coyle from Dec. 1, 2016, to Jan. 4, 2017. The university said in response it had no emails from Coyle during that time period, and that there were no text messages related to the request.  

The school cited state law in redacting certain personnel information, student educational information and attorney-client information relating to the request.  

Emails from that time period to Kaler, Coyle and Claeys, written by various university faculty and staff, indicate mixed reaction to either the suspensions or the short-lived decision by players to boycott the university's bowl game. 

RELATED: U of M Athletics Director Addresses Football Player Suspensions

One Carlson School professor wrote in an email to Claeys that he'd be willing to contribute to any legal expenses incurred as a result of the boycott decision.

"Please let me know how I may contribute financially or otherwise in dealing with the matter as you move forward," the professor wrote.   

Another professor, from the university's School of Social Work, was upset the coach supported his players' decision to boycott the bowl game.

"I hope those aren't the values you are instilling in your team," the professor wrote. "I know you want to support your players, which is fabulous, but I think supporting your team in supporting the right values is a better activity."

In calling for Claeys to apologize to "all the women associated with the University of Minnesota," the professor wrote, "I've been at the University of Minnesota for 18 years, and this event, including the Coach's support, has set back the reputation of the University of Minnesota greater than any other event I can remember."

Meanwhile, an email written by the university's assistant director of athletic compliance to former Gopher football player Dominique Barber, who now serves as the football program's coordinator of alumni outreach relations, NFL liaison and recruiting assistant, indicates Barber had inquired as to whether boosters could provide legal fees to student-athletes either directly or via crowd-funding sites.

The email indicates the payments would constitute extra benefits and violate NCAA bylaws designed to uphold amateurism.  

In a January interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Kaler addressed confusion surrounding the suspensions.

"So let me be real precise in what I know about that," he said. "Mark Coyle told me about the report, about the findings, he then talked to the coach. My understanding is the coach agreed with the suspensions and met with the players and Mark Coyle and informed them of the suspensions. So I believe he supported the decision."

When asked how that jibed with what Claeys had said previously, Kaler said, "And, again, you know I'm not going to get in a back and forth with what (Claeys) said. I told you what (Coyle) conveyed to me."

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Joe Augustine, Tom Hauser and Michael Oakes

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