Some excellent reporting from the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, reveals a troubling story — a three-year starter on the football team was “permanently separated” from UMich in December 2013 following a multi-year investigation into an alleged November 2009 sexual assault.
Over the course of the more than four-year investigation, Brendan Gibbons — who graduated last year before attending graduate school at UMich — was a star football player for the Michigan Wolverines, playing as a fifth-year senior during the 2013 season. According to the university’s athletic website, Gibbons, a three-year starting kicker, “finished his career fourth in U-M history in field goals made, [his] streak of 141 consecutive successful PATs ranked as the longest such streak in program history, [and he] converted a program-record 16 consecutive field goal attempts.”
Both the sexual assault allegations and the extraordinarily delayed reaction by UMich are disturbing. As The Daily reports:
The permanent separation of Gibbons, who was a graduate student in the School of Social Work after graduating with a general studies degree, stems from an incident that was reported to have occurred on Nov. 22, 2009, according to documents. This corresponds with previous media reports that a sexual assault involving a Michigan football player occurred in the early morning hours of that day. Gibbons was a freshman and a member of the football team at the time that the conduct was alleged to have occurred …
It’s unclear why sanctions were not decided in this matter until recently.
In an editorial titled “A Suspect Separation” published Wednesday, The Daily’s student board succinctly laid out many of the issues surrounding Gibbons’ expulsion.
The overall lack of public information in the case, due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), makes it impossible to fully understand what actually happened during the four-year-long sexual assault investigation. “It is difficult — maybe even unfair — to speculate on the delicate process of investigating an allegation of sexual assault, but the overwhelming student response has been one of suspicion,” The Daily writes.
More specifically, the board states, “The University’s delay in reaching a decision regarding the Gibbons case until now is suspect … If the University knowingly postponed the expulsion of Gibbons in any way over the last four years, it would be an atrocity of the highest degree.”
Additionally, Gibbons’ standing on the football team — a major source of Michigan pride and revenue — calls into question the timing of the university’s expulsion ruling. As The Daily writes, “the University has not provided an explanation for why the separation process concluded in late December,” which is “right at the end of Gibbon’s football career and at the end of the football team’s season.”
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