The lawyer for suspended University of Minnesota basketball standout Reggie Lynch has summoned reporters to his Minneapolis office for a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday, shortly before they’re expected across town for a sexual misconduct appeal hearing.
For weeks, attorney Ryan Pacyga has repeatedly delayed the hearing dates for his client’s appeal. They hope to overturn a university investigator’s findings that Lynch was “responsible” for sexual misconduct involving two women nearly two years ago. The investigator has said Lynch should be suspended for one incident until August 2020 and expelled for the other.
Lynch could have accepted that decision or appealed. He appealed, requesting a hearing on each case before a three-person panel of the Student Sexual Misconduct Committee.
The hearings could have occurred a month ago, but Pacyga repeatedly pushed back the dates, saying he needed time to adequately prepare. At a news conference in January, he lashed out, saying his client’s due process rights were being violated and comparing his situation to that of people confined to Japanese internment camps.
On Wednesday, Pacyga declined to discuss the nature of Thursday’s scheduled news conference. However, bringing reporters and TV cameras to his downtown office two hours before he’s expected across town for a lengthy and intense hearing suggests a change of plans. If Pacyga and Lynch don’t attend the hearing, Lynch’s only option is to accept the expulsion and/or suspension.
Two women filed complaints with the university in October 2017, accusing Lynch of sexually assaulting them in April 2016. The school’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action began investigating the complaints as the Athletic Department allowed Lynch to play through the start of the 2017-18 season.
In early January, the school sent Lynch and his accusers letters saying he had been found responsible for sexual misconduct in both cases. Had he not appealed, his expulsion would have been immediate.
After the letters came out, basketball coach Richard Pitino and athletic director Mark Coyle said Lynch had been benched but would remain on the team.
Lynch, who played for Edina High School, is in his final year of college eligibility. The basketball season ends next month, and the Gophers aren’t expected to get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament known as March Madness.
Lynch, a center, last played for the Gophers on Jan. 3 against Illinois. The Gophers won 77-67 and had a 13-3 record. The team has won one game since Lynch was benched and lost 11. The Gophers’ record is now 14-14.
If the hearings proceed, Lynch and his accusers will tell their stories to the three-person panel in a closed-session. The panel then would be asked to agree or disagree with the investigator’s ruling. A 2-1 vote carries the decision. After that, one appeal to a university administrator remains a possibility.
Lynch transferred from Illinois State to the Gophers in April 2015. He had to sit out the 2015-16 season per NCAA rules.
In May 2016, he was arrested after a freshman accused him of sexual assault. He was released from jail two days later and suspended from the team. Hennepin County prosecutors announced that Lynch wouldn’t be charged in the case.
Lynch first took the court for the Gophers in November 2016.
Star Tribune staff writer Marcus Fuller contributed to this report. Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson