The job of recruiting high school football players to play for the University of Minnesota likely has grown significantly more difficult in the wake of this week’s controversy over a sexual assault investigation and a subsequent team boycott.
What Gov. Mark Dayton called “a bad black eye” for Minnesota will be present every time recruiters sit down at the kitchen tables of prospective recruits between now and the Feb. 1 signing day.
“If the decision is down to Minnesota and somewhere else, the recruiter might look at the player’s mother and say, ‘Is this really where you want him to go?’ ” Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant said. “It looks bad when 10 of your players are suspended.’’
Ten Gophers were suspended on Tuesday, leading to Thursday’s full-team boycott of all team activities. That boycott threatened the team’s Holiday Bowl commitment, but the players had an overnight change of heart by Saturday morning. The players said the suspensions, a result the school’s investigation into a Sept. 2 sexual assault allegation, were unfair and came without due process.
It all adds up to an unpleasant backdrop for recruiting the next crop of future Gophers.
Brad Anderson, who stepped down as Wayzata football coach this fall after 18 seasons, said, “Some parents might not be comfortable about the university acting this way, whether it’s to be founded or not.”
Before the investigation report surfaced Friday, at least two in-state recruits were in solidarity with their future teammates.
Offensive lineman Blaise Andries of Marshall, one of the top in-state recruits, tweeted in support of his future teammates Thursday, saying, “I am committed to be a part of a family, not just any other team.’’
Andries, rated at three stars by recruiting services, is one of 14 commitments for the Gophers’ 2017 class.
Nathan Bursch, a tight end at Woodbury, is similarly sticking with his verbal commitment to the Gophers. He echoed a text from his high school coach, Andy Hill, saying his plans are unchanged and added, “No matter what, I stick with my brothers.”
Andries’ father, Joe, said earlier Friday that “as long as Coach [Tracy] Claeys and [offensive line] Coach [Bart] Miller are intact and everything is a go from that perspective, then certainly we would have no reason to look in the rearview mirror.’’
Since he had been out of town until Friday morning, Joe Andries said, he had not talked with his son or any of the coaches since the players’ boycott began. A parent of another recruit had sent him a text, but he said he had “not had a chance to really digest it.’’
Andries called the national attention from the episode “unfortunate’’ for the university.
“I come from the business sector,’’ he said. “I would never want a company that I work for or lead have this kind of exposure.’’