MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Should the Gophers head football coach stay or go? Tonight there are two petitions focused on the job status of Tracy Claeys.
Yes, more than 2,400 people have signed a written petition calling on the University of Minnesota to fire head football coach Tracy Claeys. Those people are concerned about his leadership skills in the aftermath of sexual assault allegations involving 10 football players.READ MORE: Twins, Lynx, And Gophers Take Home Weekend Wins
Meanwhile, there is another online petition that’s growing in its number of supporters. Those folks strongly believe Claeys should stay.
He’s the man in the middle of a messy investigation that has stirred up the community, on and off campus. Wednesday morning, Nancy Bitenc brought her 9-year-old old son with her to the U’s Athletics Department to personally deliver a petition calling for Claeys to be fired.
She says the response was less than welcoming.
“I don’t understand it quite frankly. We had to obtain full permission three times, once in front of the media, and then they threatened to arrest us. I’m shocked,” Bitence, an organizer for the petition to fire Claeys, said.
Bitenc was able to deliver the petition to the Athletics Department, as well as the office of U of M President Eric Kaler.
“I think his tweet was a poor choice of words and didn’t show the real leadership we needed from him in a real troubling situation,” U of M freshman James Farnsworth said.
Claeys told WCCO’s Mike Max on WCCO Radio Wednesday night that he’s personally hurt by the petition.
Coach Claeys tweeted his support for his team shortly after learning the players were planning to boycott the Holiday Bowl game because they believed their suspended teammates were not being treated fairly.
“Have never been more proud of our kids,” Claeys tweeted. “I respect their rights and support their efforts to make a better world.”READ MORE: St. Paul Police Report Rapid Increase Of Overdoses, Warn Of Synthetic Opioids
Shortly after the September incident in which a young woman says she was sexually assaulted by a group of football players, Minneapolis police investigated. No charges were filed by the Hennepin County Attorney’s office.
But a separate investigation by the U of M recommended expulsions and suspensions for 10 players, and revealed disturbing details.
“I find this unacceptable and right now I would not send my son to this university and I would not have him coached by this person,” Bitenc said. “We need a change. We can do better. The whole country is watching us.”
Meanwhile, an online petition praising Claeys and insisting he stay is gathering a growing number of signatures. By late Wednesday afternoon, nearly 500 people had signed it.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Athletic Director Mark Coyle issued a statement.
“Now that our football team has completed its season following an exciting win in Tuesday night’s Holiday Bowl, Coach Claeys and I will take this opportunity to reflect on this past season before sitting down together to talk about the future and my expectations for our football program,” the statement reads.
Those who want coach Claeys to go say a review of the entire U of M Athletics Department is needed.
Claeys is currently on his way to Kansas. Coyle is also out of town.
The 10 Gopher football players who were suspended over the alleged sexual assault were never criminally charged.
Last week, however, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced it would review the 80-page report made by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.MORE NEWS: 'It Was Just Nuts': Severe Storms Leave Residents With Damage, Debris, And Outages
The attorney’s office is expected to wrap up that review by the end of the week.