Minnesota football team to boycott bowl game over suspensions regarding sexual assault

Dec 16 (Reuters) - The University of Minnesota football team said they will boycott all squad activities, including a bowl game in San Diego this month, after 10 players were suspended in connection with a sexual assault investigation.

The announcement, made by players on Thursday night, has embroiled the university in a nationwide controversy over the handling of sex assault allegations on U.S. college campuses.

The 10 players were suspended earlier this week after the university investigated an alleged sexual assault in September following the team's first game of the season.

The university did not give a reason for the suspensions, citing privacy laws. The Star Tribune newspaper said on Thursday that five of the players face expulsion from the school, four face one-year suspensions and another probation.

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An attorney for the players did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

In a statement, senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky said the boycott will go on "until due process is followed and the suspensions for all ten players involved are lifted."

The players' move, he said, was an attempt to "take back the reputation and integrity of our program and our brothers that have faced unjust Title IX investigation without due process."

Last year, black football players at the University of Missouri refused to practice or play until the university president stepped down over his handling of reports of racial abuse on campus, which he did days after the players' refusal.

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Minnesota's Golden Gophers are scheduled to play Washington State in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 27.

University president Eric Kaler and athletic director Mark Coyle in a statement acknowledged there was "a lot of confusion and frustration," but reiterated that student privacy prevented them from commenting further.

On Wednesday, Kaler said the need to suspend the 10 players was "incredibly disappointing."

"Unfortunately, these types of situations are difficult for the university because we are limited in what we can say," Kaler said in a statement. "While we strive to be transparent in all that we do, the fact is that, under the law, our students have privacy rights that we value and respect."

According to the Star Tribune, a woman accused multiple players of sexually assaulting her at an off-campus apartment. Local prosecutors said in October that they declined to bring charges because of "insufficient, admissible evidence." (Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Bernard Orr)