MINNEAPOLIS -- Ten Gophers football players have been suspended from all team activities in preparation for the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego, the University of Minnesota announced Tuesday night.
The players are: Ray Buford, Carlton Djam, KiAnte Hardin, Dior Johnson, Tamarion Johnson, Antonio Shenault, Kobe McCrary, Mark Williams, Seth Green and Antoine Winfield Jr.
The university said it couldn’t provide further information “due to privacy restrictions relating to student educational data,” but a player’s father said it was tied to an earlier incident that embroiled five of the currently suspended players.
Ray Buford Sr., a 17-year law enforcement official in Michigan, told the Pioneer Press that the suspensions are tied to an early-morning incident on Sept. 2 where four players - Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson - were “mentioned” in a Minneapolis police report that included a woman’s allegations of sexual assault. The Hennepin County attorney’s office declined on Oct. 3 to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.
Buford said the new suspensions are the result an investigation by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) and were relayed at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Buford said “some” of the players were recommended for expulsion from the U, and he added that that will be met with appeals.
“The closer you were to the lady, the harsher the recommendation,” Buford said.
The incident came to light Sept. 11 after Buford, Hardin, Dior Johnson and Tamarion Johnson were suspended for violating team rules before the home game against Indiana State.
When the county attorney’s office declined to press charges, the four players were reinstated to the team the following day. Hardin, Buford and Dior Johnson each played the next game against Iowa on Oct. 8. Tamarion Johnson is redshirting this season.
Those four players, plus Djam and Kiondre Thomas, were then given restraining orders that barred them from attending the Gophers’ next home game against Rutgers at TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 22.
The woman who made the allegations filed the restraining order for her apartment residence and the stadium because she is a member of game-day operations at the facility.
The restraining orders against the six players were lifted Nov. 2, three days before Minnesota’s next home game against Purdue on Nov. 5. The players and the woman reached a settlement, stating the players and the petitioner are to have no contact while she attends the University of Minnesota. In addition, the players agreed not to file civil lawsuits against the petitioner.
“I’m glad this is over,” the woman read from a statement after the settlement was reached. “This has never been about punishing anyone. I just wanted to feel safe. Because of the resolution we came to, now I can.”
The five previously unmentioned players - Seth Green, Antoine Winfield Jr., Antonio Shenault, Kobe McCrary and Mark Williams - were tied to the case because they were in the apartment at the time of the alleged incident, Buford said.
“If you were anywhere near the apartment, they added your name to it,” Ray Buford Sr. said.
Thomas, who was not mentioned in the police report, was given a restraining order before the Rutgers game. It was dropped before the other five players’ restraining orders, and he was not included in the latest round of suspensions Tuesday
Gophers head coach Tracy Claeys will be in San Diego for a news conference Wednesday for the Holiday Bowl against Washington State. Minnesota offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel will run the Gophers’ third practice in preparation for the bowl game on Wednesday; they are scheduled to speak to the media afterward at the Gibson Nagurski Football Complex.
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.