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Saginaw Valley prez calls sexual assault claim a case of 'bullying'

CBSSports.com wire reports

KOCHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The president of a Michigan university referred to an assault complaint by a freshman football player that teammates touched him with their genitals in the locker room last month after he refused to sing as apparent "bullying."

Saginaw Valley State's Eric Gilbertson made the remark in an email sent to more than a dozen people, including members of the school's Board of Control.

The Associated Press obtained the email and other documents Friday via a Freedom of Information Act request.

"We're dealing with our football team and what appears to be a locker-room bullying incident," Gilbertson wrote on Aug. 15. "Upperclassmen seem to have picked on -- and probably intimidated -- a freshman and a complaint has been made."

Gilbertson wrote that he didn't want news reports of the incident to catch anyone "by surprise."

The freshman player told police he was the victim of sexual abuse by veteran teammates after refusing to sing at dinner on Aug. 13, according to a university police report.

The 17-year-old alleged he was approached by teammates and asked if he would sing in front of the team, a tradition for new players. After he said no and indicated he'd already sung twice, numerous teammates responded by surrounding him in the locker room, including some who touched him with their genitals, according to the report.

Suspects denied any physical contact, while witnesses -- all football players -- told police they did not see any contact or were not sure if there was contact.

The teen has since left the school in Kochville Township, about 85 miles northwest of Detroit.

Four players were suspended for two games. A fifth player served a one-game suspension.

The university's investigation has been closed "pending new information" in the case, Saginaw Valley State spokesman J.J. Boehm told AP on Friday.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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