By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gopher loyals are reacting to another athletic program now steeped in controversy. The men’s basketball team lost their game to Indiana Saturday night but that’s not why they’re making headlines.

Star player Reggie Lynch is suspended and banned from campus. Lynch is accused of sexual assault in his dorm room back in 2016.

Just days later, in a separate incident, he was arrested on suspicion of raping a 19-year-old woman. He did not face criminal charges in that case, but was briefly suspended.

It seems this investigation is heavy on the minds of fans.

Battling the cold, battling their opponent — both important as fans filed in to watch the Gophers play Indiana, but these fans also had something much more serious on their mind.

Holly Hawker of Chanhassen showed up for the game.

“It saddens me, it does, that our boys are not making good decisions and I just hope that Minnesota can take care of it and do the right thing,” Hawker said.

Drew Kiperts of Hopkins also chimed in.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “I don’t know all the details, obviously they know way more than I do. I just trust in hopefully him and the university to get it right as an alum. I’m a big fan of the university and hopefully they can do what they can do to prevent it from going forward.”

News of star player Reggie Lynch’s absence had already spread. The Edina native is suspended, accused of sexual assault in his dorm room.

Gopher fan Matt Wenino says there’s a bigger issue.

“It’s not necessarily just a U thing or a Minnesota thing, you see it all over the news, all over the country,” Wenino said. “Yeah I don’t know what’s going on but hopefully there’s an end in sight for it.”

After addressing the issue in a press conference Friday and saying he followed protocol, Coach Richard Pitino quickly addressed the issue again after Saturday’s loss to Indiana.

“I think more than anything, certainly adversity has hit right now and we have got to get these guys to continue to believe in each other,” Pitino said.

Pitino kept his comments general and upbeat.

“We’ll get these guys positive, we’ll get them working and get them better and control what we can control more than anything,” he said.

Suggesting that in Lynch’s absence, his players will have to step up in more ways than one.

Lynch is expected to appeal his suspension, if accepted that could potentially allow him to play again.

If the appeal is denied he will be banned from campus.

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