Minnesota will play in the Holiday Bowl after all.
Tension between football players and the university's administration led to a boycott earlier this week. The protest stemmed from the athletic department's decision to suspend 10 players in light of a new investigation into an alleged incident of sexual assault on Sept. 2.
As of Friday night, the impasse had not been sorted out and Minnesota's participation in the bowl game appeared in jeopardy. A "late-night summit" between group of players and school officials did not provide any indication that the boycott would end in time for game.
However, an announcement was made by the players Saturday morning lifting the boycott. The statement reads, in part, as follows ...
As a team, we understand that what has occurred these past few days, and playing football for the University of Minnesota, is larger than just us. ...
We now ask that you, the members of the media, our fans, and the general public hold all of us accountable for ensuring that our teammates are treated fairly, along with any and all victims of sexual assault. We also ask that the public dialogue related to the apparent lack of due process in a university system is openly discussed and evaluated.
As football players, we know that we represent this University and this state and that we are held to a higher standard. We want to express our deepest gratitude to our coaching staff and so many others for their support during this difficult time, and we hope that our fans and community understand why we took the actions that we did.
Our thoughts and prayers are for the well-being of the woman involved in the original incident, and for our 10 teammates to ensure that they are treated fairly. We look forward to representing the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl in a way that makes all of you proud.
Minnesota players had boycotted all team activities in preparation for the Dec. 27 bowl against Washington State. The demand was that the 10 suspended players, four of which were previously suspended three games for their connection to the alleged assault, be reinstated. The suspensions came about in light of a new investigation by the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
A restraining order issued against five of the players -- Ray Buford, KiAnte Hardin, Tamarion Johnson, Dior Johnson and Carlton Djam -- was dropped in November. The involvement of the additional five suspended players related to the alleged attack is not yet known.
"We're concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard, in violation of their constitutional rights. We are now compelled to speak for our team and take back our program," wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky told reporters. "This movement was largely motivated by a recent and disappointing meeting conducted by [athletic director] Mark Coyle. We wanted answers but received misleading statements. Moreover the actions by president [Eric] Kaler have breached fiduciary duty, not only to the 10 falsely accused, but all of us.
Kaler issued a statement Friday night that he attempted, unsuccessfully, to meet with the players to discuss the issue moving forward. Additionally, he stood firm on the athletic department's decision to suspend the players.
However, the two sides met again and key disagreements were addressed. While the suspensions would not be lifted, the 10 players would receive a fair hearing. In the Saturday statement, players maintained their position was not one condoning sexual violence or harassment.
After meeting #Gophers AD Coyle and U President Kaler last night players were told suspensions would not be lifted.— Marcus R. Fuller (@Marcus_R_Fuller) December 17, 2016
But #Gophers senior leadership was told by Coyle and Kaler that the 10 suspended players would receive fair hearing w/ diverse review panel.— Marcus R. Fuller (@Marcus_R_Fuller) December 17, 2016
Northern Illinois would have been next in line to replace Minnesota if the boycott was upheld, per CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.