College Code Violations by Athletes Can be Widely Publicized
College students make mistakes all the time, as they are learning to navigate life and make decisions on their own, often for the first time. Most do not expect a mistake to result in national news coverage or even to draw much attention on campus. It’s a much different world for some collegiate athletes, however. They’re often in the spotlight and any misconduct or punishments will quickly be discovered and publicized by the media.
Such has been the case for 10 football players at the University of Minnesota in recent weeks.1 In September, allegations were made that the players were involved in a non-consensual sexual assault of a young woman. After an investigation by the school under, the 10 players were recently suspended for the rest of the season, and possibly permanently. Their names were also released and published in media reports on the suspensions and the allegations leading to the suspensions.
The attention to the matter and the players only increased when the rest of the U of M football team announced that they were boycotting all football practices and games – including the upcoming Holiday Bowl game – until the suspension was lifted. Skipping that game would have a huge financial impact, and the boycott immediately garnered national media coverage.
College Code Violations are Separate from Criminal Charges
The incident was initially reported to the Minneapolis Police Department, which conducted its own investigation and submitted the results to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors ultimately decided there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt and decided not to pursue charges.
Just because law enforcement authorities choose not to issue criminal charges does not mean that a university or college will simply let the matter go. allows schools to investigate allegations of college code violations and sets out a standard of proof that is significantly lower than the criminal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Schools are only required to prove code violations by a “preponderance of the evidence” which means the school must find that it is more likely than not that a violation occurred. This means if the administration believes there is a better than 50 percent chance that the violation happened, it can issue suspensions, expulsions, or other punishments. This is what happened with the 10 suspended Minnesota football players.
Ongoing Media Attention
While criminal cases are public record, information regarding college investigations and code violations is supposed to be kept confidential. However, due to the attention attracted by the football team’s boycott, investigative journalists and others began digging into the details of the case. Eventually, both the Minneapolis Police Department case report2 and the 80-page investigative report by the university3 were released and published for the public to read. These reports included the names of the football players involved, as well as specific details of the incident, interviews with the football players and the victim, and additional evidence in the case. Reportedly, after seeing the investigative report and talking to school administrators, the rest of the football team ended its boycott4 and will play in the upcoming Holiday Bowl.
A publicized suspension is already damning to the reputation of high-profile college athletes. However, having detailed information about the case reported to the public by the media can have long-lasting effects for each of these players, including limiting their future educational and professional opportunities.
If someone has accused you of violating your college’s code of conduct, there are important steps to take – and one of the first ones should be to contact a college code violations attorney at Duffy Law as soon as possible. Felice Duffy understands the challenges facing college athletes. She has extensive experience as a Division I Head Coach, knows how to navigate the disciplinary process, and protects the rights of college students across the United States.