MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – University of Minnesota football coach Tracy Claeys spoke for the first time Wednesday night since learning a petition calling for his firing has been submitted to university officials.

“It hurts personally,” Claeys told Mike Max on WCCO Radio. Claeys is currently in Kansas visiting family after the Gophers got an upset victory over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, 17-12, on Tuesday. Claeys has been the subject of scrutiny since 10 players were suspended following a school investigation of an alleged sexual assault after their season-opening victory over Oregon State in September.

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Four players were originally suspended while police investigated the incident, but no criminal charges were filed and they were reinstated. After the school conducted its own investigation, 10 players were suspended and missed the Holiday Bowl. Shortly after the suspensions were announced, the entire team announced it was boycotting all football activities until the 10 players were reinstated. The players were boycotting because of what they felt was a lack of due process by university officials.

Claeys went on Twitter after the boycott was announced and supported his team.

“Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights and support their effort to make a better world,” Claeys tweeted.

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He later had to clarify his comments, saying he was strictly addressing the suspended players and the lack of due process in the case. He said he would never, under any circumstances, condone any form of sexual assault. The tweet also went directly against his superiors, President Eric Kaler and Athletic Director Mark Coyle, putting his status as coach in doubt.

The school’s report of what happened in the September incident got out, and the players shortly after went back on their boycott and resumed football activities.

A group started a petition to have Claeys fired, and it’s gathered more than 2,500 signatures. It was delivered to school administrators on Wednesday. Another petition is also circulating to keep Claeys as Gophers coach. That has more than 1,200 signatures.

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All 10 players have appealed their suspensions and will get hearings in January.