When news broke last week that University of Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch would be suspended following two allegations of sexual assault, Richard Pitino was asked if the school’s policies on investigating and handling incidents of sexual assault should be reviewed.
“I don’t know,” Pitino said toward the end of his news conference. “I’m just a basketball coach.”
That’s not a good enough answer, considering the circumstances; Pitino was attempting to absolve himself of any responsibility, even though he continued to allow Lynch to practice with the team. Just a few days later, it somehow looks even worse. Today, the relevant university body recommended Lynch be expelled and banned from campus, while yet another assault allegation against Lynch has been revealed.
Via Rochelle Olson and Brandon Stahl of the Star Tribune:
Another allegation emerged Tuesday against suspended University of Minnesota basketball standout Reggie Lynch, in a complaint that has resulted in a recommendation of expulsion.
The complaint, obtained by the Star Tribune on Tuesday, marks the third woman to come forward accusing Lynch of sexual misconduct. It resulted in a Jan. 3 finding by the U’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) that Lynch was responsible for sexual misconduct in an alleged sexual assault that occurred on April 7, 2016. The EOAA’s finding against Lynch was issued the same day as a separate recommendation that he be suspended for sexual misconduct in an unrelated incident that occurred three weeks later.
This investigation has been ongoing for some time, yet Lynch wasn’t punished in any way until this most recent suspension, which wasn’t even dictated by Pitino, but by athletic director Mark Coyle.
While being investigated by the EOAA for the April sexual misconduct complaints, Lynch played for the Gophers in the 2016-17 season as part of the biggest season-to-season turnaround in team history. The Gophers got a berth in the March Madness tournament and lost in the first round.
Pitino is sticking to his guns, as well:
On Tuesday, Pitino confirmed Lynch was at practice Monday but “didn’t do much yesterday just because I’m more focused on the guys who are playing more than anything.”
“But he was there,” Pitino added. “It was more of a short (practice) because we’re so banged up right now, but he is there if need be with certain things.”
Pitino said that Lynch will continue to practice with the team.
At this point, it’s hard to see this story ending any way other than Lynch being removed from the school. The question now, though, is will Richard Pitino go with him? And given the support Pitino has received from Coyle throughout the process, it might end up with Coyle out too. Coyle dismissed that possibility on Friday:
Coyle did not give a lot of details in any of his statements and continued to refer media members back to the EOAA board and the policies as set forth on the university website.
He was asked why he should be trusted to run the athletic program and why he should keep his job by one media member, and Coyle stressed that he had been brought in in June of 2016 to clean up the program and that the U had made great strides forward as an athletic department since then. “We have worked incredible hard to provide a 1st class experience for any athlete that comes to our program. We talked about being defined by our actions….each time we are faced with a situation…I feel like we’ve been very consistent.”
Coyle and Pitino needn’t look far for an example of how this plays out; just last year, 10 Minnesota football players were suspended after a sexual assault allegation. The remaining football players threatened a bowl game boycott, which then-coach Tracy Claeys supported; the players ended up playing, and Claeys was fired shortly after. That’s the blueprint, and it’s also the second major problem on Coyle’s watch.
Pitino likely won’t have his “I’m just a basketball coach” excuse to lean on much longer.