Minneapolis — The University of Minnesota’s athletic director suspended basketball standout Reggie Lynch from team competition on Friday due to an alleged violation of the school’s sexual misconduct policy after a second woman accused him of assault.
The most recent accusation came last fall from a woman who said the Gophers center assaulted her on April 28, 2016, in his dorm room at Roy Wilkins Hall, according to documents from the university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office.
Its investigation found Lynch, the 2016-17 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, should be suspended and banned from campus until Aug. 1, 2020.
He has appealed the punishment, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. That allows the 23-year-old Lynch to remain enrolled in school and practicing and training with the Gophers until the process is completed.
Athletic Director Mark Coyle defended his decision to allow Lynch to remain a member of the team, which he did not do at the end of the 2016 season for the 10 football players investigated for sexual misconduct by the EOAA. In that case, the football team threatened to boycott the bowl game before backing off. Four of those players were exonerated upon appeal.
“People should trust the procedures that we have in place,” Coyle said Friday at a news conference at Williams Arena. “We have procedures that have been reviewed by outside agencies. We have procedures that people have focused on and worked on to a fault. Those procedures include providing due process for everybody involved.”
Coyle declined to answer almost every question from reporters about the situation, citing federal and state student privacy laws.
Minneapolis police are not investigating the alleged assault, police spokesman Scott Seroka said.
Lynch’s attorney, Lee Hutton, didn’t respond to a phone and email messages from The Associated Press, and messages left at numbers believed to belong to Lynch’s parents also weren’t returned.
This is the second EOAA investigation into allegations of sexual assault by Lynch, who is in his final year of college eligibility. He was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in a campus apartment building on May 8, 2016, and suspended from the team during that offseason.
After the Hennepin County Attorney chose not to charge him and the EOAA investigation cleared him, he was reinstated in time for the 2016-17 season. The EOAA investigation concluded it was more likely than not that Lynch reasonably believed the sex was consensual.
Lynch transferred to Minnesota after playing his first two years at Illinois State and sitting out the 2015-2016 season per the NCAA’s transfer rule. Lynch, whose uncle, Kevin Lynch, was a star for the Gophers from 1988-91, played at Edina High School in the Twin Cities area.
“We do a lot of background,” head coach Richard Pitino said, “and we never saw any red flags.”
The Gophers (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten) host Indiana on Saturday. Having lost another key post player, Eric Curry, to a preseason knee injury, they’ll have trouble replacing their starting center on the court. He’s averaging 10.1 points, eight rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. The 6-foot-10 Lynch set the single-season record at Minnesota in 2016-17 with 114 blocks.
Pitino has had plenty of off-the-court trouble to deal with involving his program over five years with the Gophers. Three players, including current starting guards Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer, were suspended late in the 2015-16 season for their involvement in a sex video posted briefly on the social media accounts of another player, Kevin Dorsey. Mason and McBrayer were reinstated in the offseason, and Dorsey transferred.
“I believe in what we’re doing on and off the court,” Pitino said. “We do our very best to educate.”
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