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Fired Claeys responds to athletic director's comments

MINNEAPOLIS--Former Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys felt compelled Wednesday to defend his work after Athletics Director Mark Coyle described why he fired Claeys in a news conference Tuesday.

MINNEAPOLIS-Former Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys felt compelled Wednesday to defend his work after Athletics Director Mark Coyle described why he fired Claeys in a news conference Tuesday.

In an interview with WCCO-AM 830, Claeys said he understood the decision to be let go revolved around his support for the player-led, two-day boycott of team activities in mid-December. The players were upset about 10 teammates being indefinitely suspended for suspected involvement in an alleged sexual assault and wanted those players to receive better due process.

"I do understand that it's their right to have anybody lead the football program that they'd like to," Claeys said. "I just wish that they'd have left it at that at the press conference."

Claeys said he took issue with Coyle mentioning the program giving up second-half leads in a 9-4 season and that Coyle received emails from fans after the 31-17 loss to rival Wisconsin in the regular season finale.

"Whoever the next person is better have a pretty ironclad contract if you are going to be based on emails from fans and winning nine games isn't good enough," said Claeys, who departed with a $500,000 buyout. "They better protect themselves a little bit."

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Claeys said he has also taken exception to lower recruiting grades and poor attendance at TCF Bank Stadium being used against him, the latter he chalked up to steep price increases that were instilled by former AD Norwood Teague and stopped by Coyle in August.

"I thought it was unnecessary for them to go into something - like recruiting and throwing out numbers," Claeys said. "We've been toward the end every year, and we won nine ball games. It's about developing players and recruiting kids, so I was disappointed in that."

Claeys repeated that his tweet in support of the players' boycott on Dec. 15 could have been worded better, but was proud of how the boycott shed light on the perceived shortcomings of university-led investigations.

"There is a fairness deal there that I think needs to be straightened out," Claeys said. "I wouldn't change anything."

The U's office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action recommends five players for expulsion, four players for one-year school suspension and one for probation. They will have appeals hearings in January.

Coyle made the decision to suspend the players Dec. 13.

"I have respect for authority, but that doesn't mean that I agreed with it," Claeys said.

Claeys, who went 11-8 in a season and a half after taking over for Jerry Kill, said how the number of player implicated grew needs to be addressed.

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Meanwhile, two verbal commitments to the Gophers football team have decided to reopen their recruiting processes, but insist they're not de-commiting from the University of Minnesota in the wake of the suspension of 10 players in mid-December and the firing of Claeys on Tuesday.

On the other hand, the state's highest rated recruit, Blaise Andries, of Marshall, Minn., showed Wednesday night he was steadfast in enrolling at the U.

"It certainly saddens me to hear the release of Coach Claeys and his staff," Andries wrote in a message on Twitter. "I want to thank them for the relationships and the offer. I wish them the best of luck and I know that they will be successful in the next chapters of their coaching careers and lives. Hopefully some will be considered for the current openings. That would be awesome. Nevertheless, I am still committed to the University of Minnesota. Thank you, Go Gophers!"

Javan Hawes, a three-star-ranked receiver/athlete recruit from Tyrone, Ga., and Jakyle Holmes, a three-star running back/athlete from Ponchatoula, La., announced their altered decisions on Twitter on Wednesday night.

Hawes wrote: "This is NOT a decommitment from the University of Minnesota, however after talking with my parents and coaches I have to decided (sic) to reopen my recruiting for the sake of my future. #GoGophers"

Hawes committed to Minnesota in July and made an official visit to Minneapolis on Dec. 10, according to 247sports.com.

Holmes, who committed to the U on Dec. 10, wrote: "Because of the recent developments at Minnesota, I am reopening my recruiting and plan to visit others schools."

In a following tweet, he said, "NOT a Decommit."

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