U of M Fires Football Coach Tracy Claeys

January 04, 2017 08:52 AM

University of Minnesota head football coach Tracy Claeys has been fired. Claeys confirmed the news with KSTP's Darren Wolfson Tuesday afternoon.

RAW: Tracy Claeys Leaves U of M Football Complex Following Firing


RAW: Gopher QB Mitch Leidner Discusses Claeys firing

U of M Athletics Director Mark Coyle held a news conference at TCF Bank Stadium Tuesday night.

"I made a very difficult decision, a decision that impacts many people." said Coyle. "It's a decision I do not take lightly and I fully understand student athletes, staff, daughters and fans will be frustrated and critical of that decision."

RAW: U of M Athletics Director Addresses The Firing of Head Coach Tracy Claeys

"I informed coach Claeys that he is no longer our head football coach," said Coyle. "I will honor his contract and the contracts of the assistant coaches. When I was hired six months ago, I committed to everyone that we would have a program that would compete at the highest level academically, athletically and socially."

Earlier in the day, Coyle issued the following statement, in part:

I made a difficult decision today on behalf of the University of Minnesota. With the support of Board of Regents’ leadership and President Eric Kaler, I have decided to take the Gophers football team in a different direction with new coaching leadership

READ: Entire Mark Coyle statement here.

I determined that the football program must move in a new direction to address challenges in recruiting, ticket sales and the culture of the program. We need strong leadership to take Gopher football to the next level and address these challenges.

This decision is about the future of Minnesota football.

Moving forward, we need a leader who sets high expectations athletically, academically, and socially.

I also want to address the unfortunate blurring of the football suspension decision.

On December 13, 2016, Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham and I met to discuss 10 student-athletes.

I informed Coach Claeys of my judgment that athletic suspensions were appropriate.

Without any objection, Coach Claeys said he understood that decision to bench student-athletes.

Coach Claeys, Deputy Athletics Director John Cunningham, and I met with the student-athletes to advise them of our decision. Coach Claeys subsequently informed me that he agreed with the suspension decision.

And let me be clear: this was the right thing to do.

Coach Claeys’ Tweet later that week was not helpful. I accept that Coach Claeys intended it to support the boycotting players. Understandably others did not see it that way. I hope you will appreciate I cannot say more about the athletic suspensions in this case.

I will say, as a general matter, athletic suspension decisions – essentially a decision to bench a player – are different from a prosecutor’s decision to charge someone with a crime.

Different standards, different policies.

An athletic suspension decision is also different from a panel decision whether there has been a student conduct code violation.

Different standards, different policies.

For example, we suspend student-athletes for attitude problems. We suspend student-athletes while criminal investigations are ongoing. We suspend student-athletes when University investigators present credible evidence of inappropriate conduct. What happens in a student conduct process is not for me to say. Like the U and all involved, I simply want a just and fair process. That is not determined by who prevails; if justice is done, then the University of Minnesota and the public win, no matter the outcome.

Claeys sent the following messages to his players:

The university will pay Claeys a $500,000 buyout. His assistant coaches will get paid more than $3 million in total. Most of those assistants came in with former head football coach Jerry Kill. Claeys was making $1.5 million a year.

READ: Tracy Claeys contract

Sexual Assault Investigation

Claeys' firing is the latest twist in the controversy surrounding the football team amid a sex assault investigation from Sept. 2 that led to the suspension of 10 players.

RELATED: Petition Calling for Firing of Gophers Head Football Coach Delivered to University

The team said they would boycott the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 because of the suspensions, and many people were upset that Claeys supported his team in that decision.

The team ended up reversing the boycott and played in the Holiday Bowl last week, which they won.

RELATED: Gophers to Play in Holiday Bowl Amid Investigation into Sexual Misconduct Accusations

An online petition signed by more than 1,100 people had called for the firing of Claeys for "failure of leadership and lack of sound judgment."

Claeys, however, said he's received a lot of support from his peers in the coaching profession in the past week or so.

"When you have 100 kids that are 17 to 20 years old, you go through some sleepless nights, that's for sure," Claeys said.

RELATED: Gophers Football Coach Tracy Claeys Possible Future with the University of Minnesota

The sexual misconduct allegations involve football players and a female student at a Dinkytown apartment on Sept. 2. Criminal charges were not pursued after police investigated.

READ ALSO: 80-Page Report Outlines U of M Investigation into Gophers Football Players

READ ALSO: Minneapolis Police Department Case Report

Social Media Reaction to Claeys' Firing


Nate Leding

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