Joe Nathan column: University of Minnesota should fire football coach Tracy Claeys
As a father, grandfather, educator, taxpayer and University of Minnesota alumnus, I think it’s time for the University of Minnesota to fire its head football coach, Tracy Claeys, and conduct a thorough review of the football program to ensure in the future that standards are upheld and promoted.
Explaining my rationale will include an explicit discussion of sexual activity that some readers may find disturbing and distasteful.
My recommendations come in part from 22 years of teaching at the University of Minnesota and working on projects with the Athletic Department. This included teaching student athletes about leadership at the Athletic Department’s request. This gives me insight into what is and is not appropriate for hosting recruits as well as how some coaches guide and mentor athletes.
First, Claeys failed one of the major responsibilities of his contract: “Recruiting and managing the recruitment of student athletes.” The contract, obtained via a Minnesota Government Data Practices Act request from the University of Minnesota, can be downloaded as a PDF here: http://ow.ly/OfRb307lE8n.
A shocking 80-page University of Minnesota investigative report notes that on Sept. 2, 2016, some current team members brought a youngster, being recruited for the university’s football team, to a room. Several of them, including the recruit, had sex with a woman whose judgment was impaired by alcohol. Some of this was very violent. The woman asserts that several times she asked men to stop.
According to the university report, parts of the sexual encounters were recorded on video and photographed. University officials interviewed 28 students, read electronic messages, viewed videos and studied pictures of the incident. The report, first obtained by KSTP-TV, is available here: http://bit.ly/2hGEfUs.
The report explains that after the initial sexual interactions, much of the ensuing sexual activity was forced. The victim described the scene after the assaults: “The approximately two-foot strip of floor between the bed and television stand was covered with yellow/gold condom wrappers and used condoms. There was a pile of around 12 used condoms on top of a white plastic set of drawers next to the television stand. Semen was dripping down the drawers.”
Coach Claeys failed to convince members of the football team that this kind of activity is not acceptable and that the violators had failed the team, the university and the state of Minnesota by participating in this terrible event. And they reportedly exposed and involved a high school recruit to behavior that is completely unacceptable under university and NCAA expectations.
Second, in a Dec. 15 tweet, the coach failed to, as his contract requires, “encourage academic and moral integrity and excellence.” As football team members were boycotting preparation for a bowl game, Claeys wrote: “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!”
Nothing in this tweet reflected disagreement with the mistreatment and assault of a vulnerable young woman by football team members, which the university report documented. Nothing in his tweet mentioned the ethical standards that he and the university expect of all students. Only after the report was released, and students called off the boycott, did Claeys make public statements criticizing violence against women.
Some have defended the team’s boycott (and Claeys’ tweet) by arguing that they were demanding due process for teammates. Some noted that the accused football team members are African-American and that there is a long history of American judicial systems treating African-Americans unfairly. Due process is important. There are many instances of racial injustice.
But Coach Claeys’ public actions during the proposed boycott did not demonstrate respect for women and or make “moral integrity” a priority.
However, Claeys is very well-paid. His contract shows he has a yearly base and supplementary salary totaling $1 million, along with a yearly contribution of $400,000 to $600,000 in a retirement plan. This is more than many people will earn in a lifetime.
The contract contains many other “perks” including this one: Claeys can bring up to four family members or friends on any trip that the team takes to play a game. The university will pay all their travel expenses.
Despite this enormous salary and fringe benefits, Claeys has not provided the kind of leadership and supervision that his contract requires. He had an opportunity to teach and have influence at a time when offenders and the rest of his team sorely needed that guidance and experience. He has not demonstrated that he is a model for other leaders. He will not inspire confidence in parents and prospective student athletes. Minnesotans, and others around the country, are signing a petition urging the university of terminate him: http://bit.ly/2hMeunX.
Claeys is not the only problem that the University of Minnesota has. But firing him is an important step to promoting “moral integrity” at the University of Minnesota. It’s time the university develops a football program that embraces high standards, teaches character and insists on integrity.
Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator and PTA president, is director of the Center for School Change. Reactions are welcome at [email protected].