In the wake of a turbulent December for the Golden Gophers, multiple sources are reporting that head coach Tracy Claeys has been fired. This is a bit of a surprise after a masterful coaching job by Claeys and his staff led to an upset of Washington State in the National Funding Holiday Bowl last week. The Gophers, 10-point underdogs, won 17-12.
The discontent in the Twin Cities dates back to early September, when multiple players were accused of an off-campus sexual assault. Four players were suspended and ultimately reinstated when Hennepin County declined to press charges.
In early December, the university’s office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action finished its own investigation of the incident. The school suspended all five players named in the restraining order, as well as five others. The team decided to boycott all football activities, including their bowl game, if the players were not reinstated. It was during this time that Claeys tweeted his support for his players, drawing the ire of many who felt he was minimizing the seriousness of the accusations against them. The administration, in all likelihood, didn’t appreciate the head coach undermining their discipline either. A compromise was reached with the players, University President Eric Kaler, and Athletic Director Mark Coyle, and football activities resumed. There were rumblings about Claeys’ job security, but after the bowl win it seemed as though he may have saved his job.
Claeys was promoted from defensive coordinator to interim head coach after Jerry Kill resigned due to health problems in October 2015. He was awarded a three-year contract a few weeks later. Claeys led the Gophers to their first season with at least nine wins since 2003, and became the first coach in school history to win his first two bowl games.
LWOS will have more on this story as information becomes available.