A former assistant to Mitch Barnhart at the University of Kentucky stands at the center of a controversy in Minnesota that could lead to his school’s football team boycotting its bowl game.
Mark Coyle, who came to UK from Minnesota in 2005 and ultimately became Kentucky’s deputy director of athletics under Barnhart, took over as the University of Minnesota’s athletics director in May of this year. Between leaving Kentucky in 2011 and his arrival at Minnesota, Coyle served as athletics director at Boise State and Syracuse.
On Tuesday, Minnesota indefinitely suspended 10 of its football players from all team activities for undisclosed violations. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, some of the suspended players were accused by a female student in an alleged sexual assault in September. A criminal investigation resulted in no arrests or charges.
On Thursday, the Gophers players refused to practice as the team prepares to play in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State on Dec. 27. Senior Drew Wolitarsky said the team would continue its boycott of all football activities until the suspensions are lifted, the Star-Tribune reported.
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The player told the newspaper that the Minnesota players were fed up after meeting with Coyle on Wednesday.
“We got no answers to our questions about why these kids were suspended when they were just found (innocent) by the law,” Wolitarsky said in the Star-Tribune article. “He basically told us that he didn’t have answers, and that led us to believe that this is kind of unjust. He has the power to reverse this, and he won’t.”
The Star-Tribune said it’s unclear whether school president Eric Kaler, head football coach Tracy Claeys or Coyle made the decision to suspend, but Wolitarsky is placing the blame on the athletics director.
A statement released by Kaler and Coyle said, in part, that the university cannot share all the information it has because of federal laws regarding student privacy.
Coyle is one of five athletics directors at power five schools who previously worked under Barnhart at Kentucky.
The athletics directors at Florida (Scott Stricklin), Mississippi State (John Cohen), Arizona (Greg Byrne) and Oregon (Rob Mullens) also worked for Barnhart in Lexington.