Reggie Lynch has appealed suspension, but potentially long process may end his Gophers career
MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers basketball player Reggie Lynch has appealed a long suspension handed down Thursday, Jan. 4, by a university panel but faces a potentially long process that could mean he has played his last game for the University of Minnesota.
Found responsible for violating the U's rules on sexual misconduct, Lynch, 23, is suspended from athletic competition but still a part of the basketball program and practicing with the team, athletics director Mark Coyle said Friday.
He missed Saturday's 75-71 loss to Indiana at Williams Arena.
There is no official timeline for an appeals hearing, which could be scheduled for as early as this month, but it took about fourth months for five Gophers football players suspended in the wake of an alleged sexual assault on Sept. 2, 2016. Their cases were settled on March 20, 2017, about four months after the conclusion of an investigation by the schools Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
Three players won the appeals and immediately were reinstated to the football team but already had missed the Gophers' 17-12 victory over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. If Lynch's appeals process takes as long, he likely won't play another game for the Gophers.
Last Thursday, the EOAA concluded an investigation that started Oct. 9 into Lynch's actions.
According to findings obtained by the Pioneer Press, the EOAA concluded that Lynch violated the Student Conduct Code rules on sexual misconduct and rules regarding sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence related to an incident with a 20-year-old college student in his dorm room on April 28, 2016.
As a result, the EOAA recommended Lynch be suspended from school and banned from campus until no earlier than Aug. 1, 2020. Had he not appealed, those sanctions would have gone into effect on Tuesday.
If Lynch, a 6-foot-10 center who was the Big Ten Conference's defensive player of the year in 2016-17, has hopes of playing again this season, he'll want a quick appeals process. Barring a postseason tournament berth, the Gophers' regular season is scheduled to end with the Big Ten Conference tournament Feb. 28-March 4.
Without Lynch, earning a postseason berth might be difficult for the Gophers (13-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten). Their next game is Wednesday at Northwestern (10-7, 1-3).
Messages to Lynch's attorney, Lee Hutton, were not immediately returned Monday. The accuser's lawyer, Amy Isenor, declined comment.
According to the Student Conduct Code, Lynch has several grounds on which to fight the EOAA's suspension: significant procedural error; misapplication or misinterpretation of the rules he was found to have broken; the appearance of new evidence that might change the findings; and that the sanction was "grossly disproportionate" to the offense.
The appeals process includes a hearing in front of a disciplinary panel, in this case likely a three-member panel of the Student Sexual Misconduct Subcommittee composed of faculty, students and local professionals. Each party can be represented by counsel, and a member of the university's General Counsel's Office will defend the decision the EOAA already has made.
Within five days of the hearing, the panel will forward its findings to the school provost for a final ruling, senior vice president for academic affairs Karen Hanson.
The university's Student Conduct Code defines sexual misconduct as "any non-consensual behavior of a sexual nature that is committed by force or intimidation, or that is otherwise unwelcome. Sexual misconduct includes the following behaviors: sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and sexual or gender-based harassment."
Lynch, 23, was investigated and cleared by the U's EOAA related to a May 8, 2016 incident. In that case, investigators concluded it was more likely he believed the sex was consensual. He was arrested and investigated by university police in that case, but the Hennepin County Attorney declined to press charges.
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