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'U' Regent 'To Start Asking Questions' About Gopher Football Injuries

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A University of Minnesota regent is sharing his concerns about the Gopher football program.

Top recruits opened up about their career-ending injuries in a WCCO investigation that aired Monday night. The injuries were so serious during practice that they never played a game as a Gopher.

James Farnsworth is one of four new members to the Board of Regents.

"I think the story was a great place to start asking some questions and seeking some more information, and I think that is my role in this situation," Farnsworth said.

A current U student and executive director of the Highland Business Association in St. Paul, Farnsworth ran on reviewing the direction of the U's athletic program.

"I think of course we should take the best care of our players possible, academically, socially, physically, emotionally," he said. "What are we doing to make sure that our athletes are receiving the best care possible."

PJ Fleck
Coach PJ Fleck (credit: CBS)

He expressed concern after two former players came forward with complaints about the Gopher football program, including a serious neck injury, severe concussion and throat injury at practices that put three players on the sidelines, permanently. In all, five players from 2018 took medical retirements.

Former professor Jason Stahl submitted a 20-page report, in which his observations of 21 football student-athletes in his classes detailed mental and physical health concerns. The report was sent to Athletic Director Mark Coyle in 2019. U officials told WCCO they reviewed it and they say no misconduct was found.

Some of the players speaking out now previously praised the program. And on Twitter Tuesday, some former players came to Coach PJ Fleck's defense. Former Gopher Carter Coughlin tweeted that the accusations are "laughable," and that "some people just aren't cut out for college football."

Current Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan praised Coach Fleck, tweeting that Fleck "truly has our best interest at heart."

Regent Darrin Rosha, who has served on the board for a dozen years, said that contact sports like football are physically demanding and pose risks. He added that current reviews show U athletic programs "comply with regulations and safety principles consistent with our peers." But he says the university should continue the broader discussion about how collegiate programs may better protect students in high-level competition.

The Board of Regents have their regularly scheduled meeting later this week. Farnsworth told WCCO he's already to ask board staff members about this situation, and it will likely come up.

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