Place-kicker Brendan Gibbons was expelled last month over what U-M said was a sexual misconduct policy violation that allegedly occurred in 2009. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
The Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office is not reviewing possible charges against former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons, who was expelled from the university last month after it said he had violated its Student Sexual Misconduct Policy.
The violation stemmed from an alleged sexual misconduct incident Nov. 22, 2009, for which Gibbons was never charged. Gibbons was a redshirt freshman that year on the football team. He was in graduate school and had completed his football eligibility — with the exception of the bowl game — when he was expelled.
Gibbons was informed of his expulsion in a letter sent Dec. 19, 2013, and mailed to his home address in Florida from the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which handles disciplinary proceedings against students. The letter was reviewed by the Michigan Daily, which first reported the story on Tuesday. In the letter, he was informed he would be “permanently separated” from the university on Dec. 20. The Daily indicated it did not obtain the documents from the university.
In the legal realm, though, Gibbons likely will not face further proceedings.
“We have not received a request for prosecution for anyone with this name,” Steve Hiller, Washtenaw County chief assistant prosecutor, said Wednesday.
The Washtenaw County prosecutors office does not conduct investigations. At the end of a police investigation, a request for prosecution can then be submitted to the office.
Gibbons did not travel to Arizona last month for Michigan’s bowl game in Tempe on Dec. 28. Upon the team’s arrival, Michigan coach Brady Hoke announced that Gibbons had returned home to Florida for “a family matter” and would not participate in the game.
In a letter from the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution sent Nov. 20, 2013, and obtained by The Daily, the university determined a “preponderance of evidence supports a finding that the Respondent engaged in unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, committed without valid consent.”
The Office of Institutional Equity, which reviews internal complaints of sexual assault at Michigan, does not, according to the Daily, require the same standard of evidence of criminal prosecutors. The Daily surmises that perhaps because of revised university policies regarding sexual misconduct, the initial allegation was reviewed or re-reviewed, hence the lengthy review delay.
In the updated policy effective in 2011, any sexual misconduct allegation received by U-M must be investigated.
Jay Wilgus, director of the office of Student Conflict Resolution, directed an interview request to Rick Fitzgerald, associate director of U-M public affairs.
The university, through Fitzgerald, issued a statement Wednesday evening.
“Questions have been raised about the University of Michigan’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct in 2009,” the statement said. “Those allegations were handled in accordance with the university policy in effect at the time.
“The university now adheres to the institution’s policy on sexual misconduct by students, which was adopted in 2013. The Office for Institutional Equity is the designated university office for conducting investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct involving students. In implementing university policy, OIE treats all students equally and conducts fair and impartial investigations.
“Our current process allows that, if new information is obtained at a later point, the university could commence an investigation at that time. In accordance with the university’s policy of not disclosing details about student disciplinary actions, we will not release the results of any investigation. The university does produce and publish annual reports on aggregate student disciplinary sanctions through the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.”
It is unclear whether the alleged victim requested that the incident be reviewed.
According to the policy, that’s not entirely necessary.
“If the Complainant is willing to participate in the review and investigation process, the University will proceed as described in the Investigation section.
“If the Complainant requests confidentiality or asks that the report of sexual misconduct not be pursued, the University will, generally before taking any further investigative steps, forward that information, along with all available information about the report, to a review panel. The review panel will consist of the Title IX Coordinator and staff members. These panel members will represent the interests of the University, law enforcement, survivors of sexual misconduct, persons accused of sexual misconduct, and/or other offices as deemed necessary and appropriate under the circumstances.”
Gibbons played at Iowa on Nov. 23 — three days after the initial letter was sent to his Florida home from the university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution — but reportedly suffered a muscle injury Nov. 26 in practice and was held out of the regular-season finale against Ohio State on Nov. 30. Gibbons was on the sideline for the game.
The Daily reported that on Dec. 4 Gibbons had a meeting with the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.
During Michigan’s annual football banquet on Dec. 9, the seniors were individually introduced by Hoke, given “M” rings and then were allowed to made remarks to the crowd.
Gibbons thanked the coaching staff for their support, and he specifically thanked Hoke for giving him an opportunity to kick despite on-field issues early in his career under former coach Rich Rodriguez. Hoke became head coach in 2011.
“I’d like to thank coach Hoke for giving me the opportunity to kick here after my struggles and believing in me and for Team 134 (the Michigan 2013 team) for having my back ever since I’ve been here,” Gibbons said at the banquet. “I’d like to thank the field goal unit.
“I’d like to thank my family — they’re amazing, especially my dad and my mom. They’ve been with me through everything I’ve been through. They’re the greatest people in the world, and I mean that.”
Hoke was asked during a news conference on Dec. 16 about Gibbons’ status for the bowl game. He confirmed at the time that Gibbons’ injury that held him out of the Ohio State game was muscle-related.
“He’s a little iffy,” Hoke said. “He’s kicking a little bit. I don’t want to overkick him.”
The Michigan football team arrived in Phoenix on Dec. 23 for the Dec. 28 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Hoke made brief comments at a news conference that day before taking questions.
Hoke said the team was excited about being in Arizona and then offered personnel updates on Gibbons and injured quarterback Devin Gardner before taking questions.
“A couple things to note on our end, Brendan Gibbons, our kicker, won’t be with us,” Hoke said. “He has a family matter in Florida that he has to attend to.”
It is unclear when or if Hoke was notified by the university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution regarding Gibbons’ expulsion from the school.
Michigan athletic department spokesman Dave Ablauf, an associate athletic director, said Tuesday night that privacy issues prevent the department from commenting.
“We can’t comment on anything that involves a student’s academic standing because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” Ablauf said. “The only person who can speak about their private University standing is the individual.”
Gibbons has not responded to an email seeking comment.