Brendan Gibbons Expelled, Untruths Rampant

Submitted by Brian on January 28th, 2014 at 6:21 PM

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The university and athletic department handled Gibbons about as well as he handled this field goal. [Eric Upchurch]

The Daily has revealed that the sketchy way Brendan Gibbons exited the program—a "tweak" before the OSU game followed by barely-credible claims of "family issues"—was in fact a result of the university expelling him for the 2009 rape allegations that were exhumed earlier this year:

“You will be permanently separated from the University of Michigan effective December 20, 2013,” reads a Dec. 19, 2013 letter addressed to Gibbons at his Florida residence from the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which facilitates disciplinary proceedings against students. The Michigan Daily did not obtain these documents from the University.

In human language, "permanently separated" is expulsion. The OSCR took that action based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Why it took almost five years to reach this conclusion is unknown. The Daily suggests that revised policies from 2011 may have forced the University to re-evaluate, but policies from 2011 do not result in December 2013 expulsions. Given the timing here it's clear that the guy who dumped various court documents on the internet was the proximate cause. That is of course terribly embarrassing for the university, which was apparently fine with having a student they eventually concluded they were at least 50.1% sure raped a girl as long as no one was complaining about it.

Meanwhile, the athletic department's optics here are horrible. Having him on the team is not the issue, or if it is it's on Rodriguez's head. The incident was a year old and seemingly dead when Hoke came in; without the OSCR or other university body stepping in there would be no reason to reconsider Gibbons's status.

But once they knew things were coming to a head they could not have been dumber about this. Not content with offering up the generic and 100% true "violation of team rules" explanation—being enrolled at the university is kind of important if you're going to be on the team—they chose to cloak Gibbons's departure in a thin veneer of sympathy by claiming "family issues." That is a lie. Now they look horrible, and for something a bit more serious than having a noodle in the stadium.

Meanwhile, Hoke's explanation for Gibbons's unavailability for Ohio State is questionable at best. Was this "tweak" legitimate? Is it at all plausible that Gibbons was "iffy" for the bowl game on December 16th, three days before the very last gear of ponderous university justice ground to a halt?

"He's a little iffy," Hoke said. "He's kicking a little bit. But I don't want to over-kick him (in practice).

"I've never been a kicker, so I can't imagine that (muscle pull) problem. So, he's a little iffy."

There is absolutely no chance that Brady Hoke was not fully informed of the status of his kicker by this point. Dave Brandon did not call Brady up on the 19th and say "you're never going to believe this, but…"  That's also a lie, and in the service of what cause again?

UPDATE: A user who used to work at the OSCR provides details on the process:

Having worked at the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (the "disciplinary" office that administered the expulsion proceedings against Gibbons) for two years in undergrad, I thought maybe I could offer some insight / clear up some confusion about the OSCR process in this thread.

OSCR is not, in any appreciable sense, an investigatory body. It is a passive office that acts only after receiving a complaint from some member of the University community. While any individual student, faculty, or staff member can file a complaint, the most common OSCR complainants by far are Residence Education (Housing) and DPS. In order to pursue a complaint with OSCR, the Complainant has to provide all the necessary evidentiary backing; again, OSCR does not investigate events on its own.

The process for initiating and pursuing a complaint with OSCR goes as follows:

  • An OSCR staff member conducts an intake meeting with the Complainant to discuss the nature of his/her/its complaint and inform the Complainant of the various resolution pathways available (in addition to formal arbitration, OSCR offers a number of alternative dispute resolution pathways that do not result in disciplinary action).
  • An OSCR staff member will then conduct an intake meeting with the Respondent to notify him of the complaint and inform him of his rights/options in the process.
  • At that point, the Respondent can either accept responsibility for the complaint or indicate that he's willing to proceed to a formal arbitration.
  • Assuming that the Complainant is also interested in pursuing a formal arbitration, OSCR will either appoint a trained member of the University staff to serve as the formal arbiter, or it will select a panel of student arbiters.
  • After hearing from both the Complainant and the Respondent, the arbiter or the student panel will reach a finding of "responsible" or "not responsible," and will then proceed to make a sanction recommendation.
  • Any recommendations for expulsion have to be approved by a member of the University administration. When I was there, I believe this was the responsibility of the VP for Student Affairs, E. Royster Harper.

As you can see, this is a multi-step process that requires several meetings and often many different witnesses, advisors, and arbiters. With that said, it is emphatically NOT a three- or four-year process. Given that all of the investigatory work is already completed before a complaint is filed, the formal arbitration process does not take very long at all. In my time at OSCR, I can't remember a single arbitration - including those involving sexual assault allegations - lasting more than a single semester, from initial complaint to final sanction.

Comments

Bando Calrissian

January 28th, 2014 at 8:06 PM ^

Yes, covering up a rape. The alleged incident occured in 2009. Whether or not it was public knowledge (and, yes, it was), the fact remains Brendan Gibbons remained a scholarship athlete at Michigan (and a rather publicized and celebrated one at that) for three additional football seasons. Taylor Lewan, who is known to have a role in this story as well, became damn near the public face of the football team in that interim period, too. And when GIbbons finally got expelled, Hoke lied about it. Twice. And now Dave Ablauf is out there saying it's the first he's heard Gibbons was expelled.

Oh, and miracle of miracles, despite physical evidence via a hospital exam and the victim's unwashed clothing, and full statements from Gibbons, the victim, and others concerning this particular incident, no charges were ever filed. I'll leave it at that, knowing full well there are other publicly-known details about the anonymous victim that would further illuminate the story.

I don't know how that sounds to you, but I know what it sounds like to any other reasonable person.

snarling wolverine

January 28th, 2014 at 8:23 PM ^

Assuming that the accuser re-filed this complaint in the fall of 2013, what was the athletic department supposed to do in the meantime?  Should he have been kicked off the team despite no charges ever being brought against him?  

I agree that Hoke should have been honest about Gibbons's suspension (assuming he was, in fact, suspended for those two game) - I don't disagree about that at all.  But to retroactively blame him/Brandon for Gibbons being on the team the whole time - I don't think that's fair.  

 

 

 

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 8:07 PM ^

It was public knowledge that something happened, and the incident quietly vanished into thin air, everybody essentially went on like nothing happened until 4 years later when suddenly it becomes a major issue again.

That's not normal.

Also, at the time of the incident there were all sorts of (fairly well substantiated via the police reports) rumors flying around about football players alledgedly threatening her into silence. You can stick your head in the sand and pretend like this doesn't potentially give some credence to that if you want, bbut this whole thing looks extremely sketchy.

LordGrantham

January 28th, 2014 at 8:14 PM ^

So your evidence that people went on like nothing happened for four years is that you personally didn't hear anything about it? 

It seems very plausible to me that the Univerisity initially conducted an investigation and determined that the allegations against Gibbons did not meet the "clear and convincing evidence" standard required for disciplinary action, so none was taken.  Then, following a change of the standard to "preponderance of the evidence" as well as a mandatory review from the Title IX coordinator in the new 2011 misconduct policy, the University reopened the case and found that the evidence was enough for the new, lower standard. 

Why is that not a completely viable explanation?

 

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 8:23 PM ^

You don't find anything the least bit questionable about arbitrarily re-opening a 4 year old case (that  just so happened to disappear quite conspicuously)  and retroactively expelling a student 4 years after the alledged incident took place?

A "change in policy" is about the most specious answer I can think of.

Is the university reviewing each and every single case that took place in the past? If so I'd expect we're about the hear reports of a multitude of students getting expelled thanks to the new, lower standards to the preponderance of evidence with regard to each case.

LordGrantham

January 28th, 2014 at 8:38 PM ^

1.  It wouldn't be an "arbitrary" reopening if it was mandated by the new 2011 policy.

2. I assume you mean inconspicuous here.  The fact that it disappeared inconspicuously probably has something to do with federal law that prevents comments about a student's academic record.

I didn't say I don't find anything questionable here.  There is plenty questionable here.  But you, and others, appear quite convinced that there was some intentional delay by the University in order to allow Gibbons to remain on the team. 

Not only is there no evidence to support that position, but an alternative and plausible explanation has been offered which you inexplicably dismiss.

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 8:40 PM ^

No, I meant conspicuous. As in, a case involving an athlete allegedly sexually assaulting a girl with a great deal of evidence in her favor, according the police reports, just so happens to essentially vanish into the ether? Tell me you haven't heard that story before.

There isn't evidence to really support any position because there hasn't been any sort of satisfactory explanation given. 

It does however, at the very least, look problematic, which is something even you acknowledge.

Don

January 28th, 2014 at 8:39 PM ^

Oh come on, large institutions make seemingly crazy or implausible decisions all the time. Given the current concern over sexual assaults on college campuses, I wouldn't be surprised at all if many cases are re-opened.

Look at it this way: UM has just publicly announced that they are now going to investigate cases itself, and will use a new, lower standard of proof to determine the outcome of their deliberations. If UM then DID NOT investigate old accusations, it would be leaving itself wide-open to charges that it wasn't serious about sexual assault.

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 8:57 PM ^

So at the very best the University is essentially saying, "Wow, we really dropped the ball with that (alleged) rape that happened and allowed a (potential) sexual predator to stay on campus for 4 years, not only that but as a member of the football team (with all of the privileges and accolades that come with that). Whoops, our bad!" 

I fail to see how that is much better.

Njia

January 28th, 2014 at 9:35 PM ^

Don is right, and moreover, the University cannot act out of fiat. Even the Accused have rights, and under the old system and standards, the University may not have had any recourse. Even if the wanted to discipline both Gibbons and Lewan four years ago, their hands were ties.

Rights and legal counsel can both be a pain in the ass, but they exist for a reason. I would wager that as the U is home to one of this country's finest legal institutions, Hoke was told in no uncertain terms that he was not to speak about the proceedings against Gibbons even indirectly. The optics could not have been worse, but a "no comment" from him would have created more questions, not less, from reporters that neither Hoke nor anyone else at the University could legally answer.

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 9:51 PM ^

Just as a point of contention...

There is nothing tying their hands from booting anyone off the football team. Students are kicked off of football teams all across America all of the time for reasons far less serious than an alleged rape. For reasons that are not in any way, shape, or form, criminal. To suggest that their hands were tied from acting is ridiculous. They could have booted him from the team for a rape allegation (whether it was true or untrue) and that would have been the end of that.

With regard to Hoke. I would wager he was probably told what to say. Still, referring to Gibbons' reason for not being with the team as a "family issue" envokes a sympathetic image of Gibbons being unable to be with the team because of familial obligations taking precedence for him, such as the death of a close relative. Not, "We think he is guilty of sexual misconduct with regard to an incident with a girl so he is being expelled."

Besides, the university came out in the Daily and reported that to be the reason why he was expelled. So he could  have legally answered the question, but the AD/University just opted to not disclose the reason for Gibbons' absence until a later date.

Feat of Clay

January 28th, 2014 at 8:31 PM ^

I read the police reports that were made available. The "threatening the victim into silence" stuff was unclear. It read to me like a he said-she-said hearsay thing, where it's plausible that Lewan made a super assholish "give you something to cry about" type of statement with a callous disregard to how it could sound to a person in her position (or how it would sound to her friends). Sadly, it's entirely in keeping with Lewan's loutish immature behavior as a freshman, but whether it rises to the level of an actual threat is not clear. It's something your coach should kick your sorry ass for, but beyond that--I dunno.

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 8:46 PM ^

Quoting what Urban Warfare stated:

C.E. Beatty's police report of December 6, 2009.  On December 5, 2009, Lewan repeatedly asked the victim or her friends (it's unclear because identities are redacted) whether the victim planned to press charges.  Lewan then proceeded to say that "If she does, then I'm going to rape her because [Gibbons] didn't."  I don't know how that can be seen as anything but a threat. 

 

LordGrantham

January 28th, 2014 at 8:18 PM ^

Hoke lying at the press conference is not akin to the University covering up a rape.  Legally speaking, Hoke could not have told the media what was actually occuring. 

Now, he absolutely should have said "no comment" instead of what he did.  That was a bad mistake, but the rest of this is being blown out of proportion.

Swazi

January 28th, 2014 at 8:14 PM ^

Uh, what? Dave Brandon wasnt even at Michigan at the time this stuff happened. That would be Mr. Martin. Brandon came in the following year.

Was he aware of the incident? We will probably never know. But as people have said, nothing was covered up. This was out there in 2009 right after it happened. The University administration is going to be under a microscope more than the athletic department over this.

Bando Calrissian

January 28th, 2014 at 8:19 PM ^

The alleged incident happened in November 2009.

Dave Brandon was named Athletic Director on January 5, 2010. In other words, he could have bought a gallon of orange juice on the morning after the alleged assault, and it would have still been good the day he got the job.

And if every random MGoBlogger knew this was a story pretty much the week it happened, there's no way the Athletic Director isn't just casually aware, but intimately familiar with the story. 

Yeoman

January 29th, 2014 at 11:53 AM ^

By the time Hoke was hired the matter had been closed, and it's a bit much to expect him to take disciplinary action regarding an incident that had happened two years before he was hired, in the absence of any new information, when no disciplinary action was taken at the time of the incident.

TheLastHarbaugh

January 28th, 2014 at 8:11 PM ^

It looks as if there was some sort of cover up of a sexual assault case involving a football player.

Just because the details were made known that something happened, doesn't mean that there can't be a cover up. Silencing the victim. Making her drop the case and go away so that everybody can just move on and pretend like nothing happened. That's still a cover up.

The FannMan

January 28th, 2014 at 7:56 PM ^

The calls for explanation are well founded. However, FERPA prevents the University from going into this. We are not likely to ever get the details re who knew what when.

The FannMan

January 28th, 2014 at 10:32 PM ^

You would really be happy with a vanilla comment on how that policy works and a statement that "Gee, these things take while."   If so, send a FOIA request for a copy of the policy.  You can review it all you want.  And, just take my word for it, these things can take years.  

Happy now?

I bet not.  What you, and everyone else, wants is a timeline of this case.  When was the complaint filed?  What steps were taken?  Who was involved. When was Hoke informed?  Did Hoke talk with Gibbons about it?  That is all protected. 

TheNema

January 28th, 2014 at 8:01 PM ^

If Brandon and Hoke knew he was expelled and lied to the media about why he wasn't playing, I don't want them at Michigan anymore.

Really, this story should bring Brandon down. It almost seemed inevitable that something like this would happen when you combine: a) an obsession with positive PR and b) a complete lack of respect of public intelligence.

Wiseguy

January 28th, 2014 at 8:09 PM ^

This shit again? There is literally no new information regarding this. Quit pretending like any of you know what the hell actually happened. "But but but my frat buddies (frats are weird and creepy by the way) told me he raped some chick"......

AJ1

January 28th, 2014 at 8:20 PM ^

People saying Hoke should have said "no comment" on Gibbons ... HE WASN'T ASKED A QUESTION. He volunteered that Gibbons wasn't with the team for family reasons as part of his opening statement when the team first got down to Tempe. It was some sort of luncheon with media and bowl reps. Which basically means that he went into that with the plan to outright lie to them.