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Gopher Football Team To End Boycott, Play Holiday Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The players of the University of Minnesota Gophers team say they will end their boycott and resume practices for the forthcoming Holiday Bowl game against Washington State on Dec. 27.

The players had been boycotting all team activities until the University reinstated 10 suspended players.

The players' attorney says he filed a suit asking a judge to intervene. But the University stood firm on the suspensions, insisting on a due process next week that would entail a final decision on status.

After the team's first game of the season, four Gophers players were accused of sexual assault by a 22-year-old female student.

The victim said she had been drinking but remembers "a line of people, like they were waiting for their turn."

A month-long investigation led to no charges being filed against the players. The victim then filed a restraining order against them.

A University investigation included additional players. All 10 were then suspended from the football team. Their attorney Lee Hutton says he doesn't understand how, with no new evidence, his clients can be suspended.

Senior wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky made the announcement the boycott would end along with some of his teammates at a press conference Saturday.

"It became clear that our original request of having 10 suspensions overturned was not going to happen," Wolitarsky said.

Wolitarsky said the seniors met with University President Eric Kaler and Athletic Director Mark Coyle Friday night.  He said they agreed to three requests: the suspended players would have a fair hearing with a diverse review panel, the team would be shown support and that all of the players would bring more exposure to the issue of sexual harassment and violence against women.

"This is an educational moment," Coyle said. "The great thing about college campuses is that you can have different opinions and you can express those opinions, but you have to be respectful during that process."

Kaler said he was pleased the Gophers will play in the bowl just over a week away. He said he stands by the decision to suspend the 10 players based on university values. Kaler also wanted the team's values to be clear.

"The football team action was in support of their teammates, it was not in support of sexual violence," Kaler said.

"There is only one acceptable way to treat all women and that is with the utmost of respect at all times," Wolitarsky said.

The Gophers will play against Washington State in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27.

In front of TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, students and survivors are holding a rally to show support and solidarity with sexual assault victims. The group will meet for 30 minutes at 2 p.m. in what's being called the "We Stand with Survivors Rally."

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