Gopher Basketball: Serious Off the Court Mess Overshadows Bad Team

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When it comes to the Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball program, you have to ask yourself: “which complete disaster do you want to analyze first? Shall we begin with the off-the-court mess or the on-the-court dumpster fire? What’s happening with Reggie Lynch right now and the Gopher basketball program is much bigger and way more important than a mere game, so let’s start there.

Getting #MeToo and #TimesUp as wrong as the U of M continues to do has a lot more adverse consequences than their consistent inability to score more points than their B1G opponents.

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The lawyer representing Lynch says that his client “categorically denies” allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against him by two different women, and did so in a way that offends anyone with a good sense of moral decency.

Via Deadspin:

Attorney Ryan Pacyga pulled off a stunning performance in a press conference today, barely 24 hours after Minnesota basketball player Reggie Lynch retained him as part of his appeal to avoid expulsion for sexual misconduct. Pacyga’s response to the allegations against Lynch included his concerns about the “hysteria” caused by the Me Too movement, a wish that Lynch’s accusers were publicly named, and a tricky analogy involving Japanese internment camps.

The University of Minnesota’s equal opportunity office recommended that Lynch, the 2017 B1G Defensive player of the year, be expelled January 3rd after he was found responsible for sexual misconduct in an alleged assault off campus on April 7, 2016.

The office issued that finding on the very same day that a separate recommendation he be suspended and barred from campus until 2020 was made.

That recommendation came from an unrelated incident alleged to have happened three weeks later in his dorm room. Gopher basketball coach Richard Pitino suspended Lynch from participating in games last week but still allowed him to continue practicing while he appeals.

Lynch’s problems are something that the University has known about for some time. There were character red flags surrounding him at Illinois State, from where he transferred, and in high school.

For the season, Lynch, who broke the school record for single season blocks last season, is averaging 10.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.1 blocks.

It’s not surprising that Gopher basketball is severely mishandling a sexual misconduct situation, as they are an athletic department which has seen some serious problems on this front during the past couple years.

Multiple football players were suspended during the 2016 season following a sexual-assault case that fall. It ultimately lead to the dismissal of head football coach Tracy Claeys a little over a year ago. In 2015, then Athletic Director Norwood Teague resigned after two female co-workers accused him of groping and making inappropriate advances at them.

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Given a backdrop like that, and the optics that go with it, you would think that Gopher basketball would take a more hard-liner approach to this situation. Given word association with anybody named Pitino these days (what now comes to mind first when you think of Rick Pitino), you would think that Richard Pitino and his Gopher basketball program would be ultra-sensitive about optics relating to this kind of thing.

So much for that. Minnesota got blown out at Northwestern tonight, 83-60, and they were non-competitive from the opening tip.

Asked if “the off-the-court issues” are affecting the team on the court, Pitino responded:

“sure, seemed like it tonight, and that’s normal…I’ll get their heads right, and they deserve that.”

Pitino said that Lynch’s status with the team remains unchanged, and he maintains that he followed protocol perfectly. He says went to his boss, and described the situation as difficult for all involved a couple different times. On that last point, he sounded a bit Steve Alford-y.

Gopher basketball is not only missing Lynch, but another key player, Amir Coffey is out for a significant amount of time with a shoulder injury. However they got absolutely curb-stomped tonight, from the get go, to a Northwestern team that itself has had a major issues. NU has been trying to regain their fight and spirit in what has been a hugely disappointing season.

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Speaking of hugely disappointing seasons, the Golden Gophers were ranked the top 15 nationally this fall! They were coming off a season in which they earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their #12 over #5 loss to Middle Tennessee State last March was certainly predictable, as was their fall from the national rankings this season.

Of course, hind sight is always 20/20 though. Currently 13-5, and 2-3 in what is a much weaker than usual B1G, they are in serious danger of even reaching the NIT. The NCAA Tournament seems impossible unless they run the table in the B1G Tournament.

With a RPI of 75, a SoS of 133, Sagarin #47 and Kenpom #48, their season has been a catastrophe so far. Of course, it still pales in comparison to the calamities of Gopher basketball off the court.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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