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Petition Seeks Firing Of Gophers Coach Tracy Claeys

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As the Holiday Bowl kicks off, there's an online petition circling to sack the University of Minnesota football coach.

Tracy Claeys is leading the team against the Washington State Cougars at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Tuesday night. But 10 Gophers players won't be on the field.

That's because the University of Minnesota suspended them following sexual assault allegations. They are being investigated for an alleged assault of a female university student that occurred on Sept. 2 in an off-campus residence.

As the Gophers take to sunny San Diego, a cloud hangs over their coach's head. A growing petition is demanding that Claeys be fired.

One of the petition organizers, Nancy Bitenc explains.

"There needs to be a wholesale review of what's going on in this program. There seems to be a breakdown of leadership, of moral integrity," Bitenc said.

Ten Gopher players were suspended after the University investigated the young woman's allegations. In protest, the entire team threatened to boycott Thursday's bowl game.

But just a day before that boycott ended, Dec. 16, Coach Claeys tweeted, "Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights and support their efforts to make a better world!"

At the time Claeys said to reporters, "It was all about me supporting their actions of trying to improve the due process."

Petitioners say Claeys showed lack of leadership by failing to condemn the alleged behavior or speak out against sexual violence.

"His contract talks about providing moral leadership and integrity and we feel it has failed. That tweet is opposite of providing moral leadership and integrity," Joe Nathan, who organized the petition, said.

Claeys is not responding to the petition. But when pressed last week, Claeys said, "I don't worry about my job on a day to day basis." Coach Claeys is under contract for two more years.

The U of M Athletic Department released a statement Tuesday, saying it's aware of the petition.

"Gopher Athletics Director Mark Coyle and University President Eric Kaler are aware of the petition and the spectrum of views that have been raised in the past weeks. Mark and the president share the expectation that our student-athletes not only show strength in competition and excellence in the classroom, but also that they uphold exemplary character and citizenship," the statement reads.

See the petition for yourself here.

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