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EOAA finds Gophers' Reggie Lynch responsible for second sexual assault; expulsion recommended

Minnesota Golden Gophers center Reggie Lynch (22) shoots the ball around Michigan Wolverines forward Moritz Wagner (13) in the first half during the Big Ten Conference Tournament on Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Verizon Center in Washington. Amber Searls / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Gophers basketball player Reggie Lynch has been found responsible for violating the university student conduct code for sexual misconduct for a second time in six days, according to findings of a school investigation obtained by the Pioneer Press on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Lynch practiced with Gophers teammates on Monday while he appeals the first suspension, handed down last Thursday following an investigation by the school's Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The recommendation on that report was a school suspension and a ban from campus until at least Aug. 1, 2020.

In this case, the recommendation is expulsion "effective immediately." According to the findings, dated Jan. 3 and 4, Lynch was found responsible for violating the school's student code on sexual misconduct during an incident in an off-campus location April 7, 2016.

Lynch, 23, has five weekdays to request an appeals hearing.

On Friday, athletics director Mark Coyle said Lynch is "still a part" of the basketball program but has been suspended from competition. He can still practice with the team and receive other student-athlete entitlements such as medical care and academic support.

Last season's Big Ten defensive player of the year, Lynch has now been investigated by the EOAA three times since transferring to Minnesota from Illinois State in April 2015. He was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct on May 8, 2016, after an investigation by university police. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office declined to press charges citing lack of evidence, and the EOAA cleared him of responsibility in that case.

The last two investigations, however, have found he broke university rules. The findings threaten to end Lynch's Gophers career.

Last Thursday, the EOAA issued a report which found Lynch "responsible" for violating the school's policies on sexual misconduct during an incident in a dorm room in April 28, 2016.

Both investigations had been ongoing since the fall. All the while, Lynch continued to play on the basketball team, averaging 10.1 points and 7.7 per game in 16 games. On Friday, Coyle stood by the school's decision to allow Lynch to play during the investigation, citing school policies.

A Minnesota athletics department spokesman declined comment and referred back to Coyle's statements on Friday. Attorney Ryan Pacyga tweeted Tuesday afternoon: "I'll host presser at 1 p.m. tomorrow re: Reggie Lynch Title IX investigation. Please give him & his family privacy & I'll provide info tomorrow."

"People should trust the procedures that we have in place," Coyle said. "... Those procedures include providing due process for everybody involved. It's my job as the athletics director, and coach (Richard) Pitino's job as the head coach to make sure that we support everybody involved in every case we deal with."

Coyle and Pitino defended their decision to allow Lynch to practice — but not participate in games — during his appeal of the first EOAA decision.

"We want to make sure that the student-athlete has access to athletic medicine and treatment, academic services, an opportunity to continue to compete and be around this team," Coyle said. "We thought it was important to go in that direction."

Asked if the school's policies, which allowed Lynch to play during the investigations and now practice during his appeal, need to change, Pitino shrugged.

"I'm just the basketball coach," he said. "I don't know."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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