Gophers’ Lynch drops appeal, denies allegations

MINNEAPOLIS — Former University of Minnesota basketball standout Reggie Lynch dropped his appeal Thursday of his expulsion over allegations of raping two women, while insisting “I did not commit any of the acts that I am being accused of.”

Flanked by his lawyer and mother, the senior center appeared at a news conference rather than as scheduled before a student panel on sexual misconduct. His mother, Marlene Lynch, said she believed him “100 percent.”

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Attorney Ryan Pacyga said they decided to drop the appeal over concerns the disciplinary process is unfair, while acknowledging that failing to appear meant the expulsion will take effect. He said Lynch has completed his coursework and, since the season is nearly over, would pursue basketball career opportunities. He declined to say if he would sue the university.

Pacyga, who has also helped represent Golden Gopher football players accused of sexual misconduct, said the panel members’ training is biased toward believing accusers. And he said the rights of the accused to present witnesses and evidence and question their accusers fall far short of what’s required in a courtroom, where the burden of proof is higher.

“The reality is that if Reggie goes into these hearings under what’s happened here, he doesn’t stand a fair chance. … Somebody had to stand up and say I’m not going to participate in this process if it’s not going to be fair. Today that person is Reggie Lynch,” Pacyga said.

In a statement, the university said Thursday that Lynch is no longer a student there and, as a result, is no longer a member of the Gophers basketball team. Athletics spokesman Jake Ricker said only that he could confirm that Lynch is no longer on the team.

The university’s Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office recommended Lynch’s suspension and expulsion in January after finding him responsible for the alleged rapes of two women in separate incidents in April 2016. The women did not report the alleged assaults to law enforcement at the time, and did not report them to the university until last October.

Lynch appealed the office’s findings, staving off his expulsion, but he hasn’t been allowed to play since Jan. 3. The Gophers were 13-3 and on track for an NCAA tournament berth up to that point, but they’re 1-11 since then in the absence of Lynch plus injuries to two key starters. They were ranked No. 14 in an Associated Press poll in December but are essentially out of consideration now for even an NIT bid.

Lynch, who was last season’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, said he has not given up on his dream of playing in the NBA. He averaged 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocks before he was benched.

“I gave my truthful answers to the EOAA,” Lynch said. “I had nothing to hide. The truth did not set me free, however. In today’s climate, people will automatically assume that you are guilty. … I am angry that there is no real way to defend myself. I feel helpless and powerless.”

Lynch was also suspended during the 2016 offseason after he was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a different woman in May 2016. He was cleared, however, and reinstated. He was never charged in any of the three alleged assaults.

He played at Edina High School in suburban Minneapolis, and transferred to Minnesota after playing his first two years at Illinois State. His uncle, Kevin Lynch starred with the Gophers from 1988 to 1991.