MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota's season was lost long ago. The Gophers will finish it even more short-handed than they were before.
Coach Richard Pitino announced Tuesday that guards Kevin Dorsey, Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer will be suspended for the remainder of the season, stemming from a sexually explicit video that appeared on Dorsey's social media accounts.
"We put a lot of thought into this, and we feel this is the right thing to do for our program," explained Pitino, who had said Monday on his radio show he anticipated the trio to play Wednesday against Wisconsin.
Pitino said that was premature on his part.
"I had not come to a final decision yet. Nothing really had changed. Just more time passed," Pitino said.
The clip was posted Friday on Dorsey's Instagram and Twitter feeds, both of which were disabled about a half-hour later. The trio was benched Sunday for the game at Illinois because of the video, according to a person with knowledge of the discipline who spoke Monday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. The players were not under investigation for any criminal charges, the person said.
Citing educational data privacy, Pitino declined to speak specifically about the incident. Asked whether the players would return next season, he said he wasn't prepared to speculate about their future status.
The suspensions have become yet another blemish on a Minnesota athletic department still reeling from the resignation last summer of athletic director Norwood Teague after two high-level university administrators reported he sexually harassed them at a senior leadership retreat.
Interim athletic director Beth Goetz said she supported Pitino's decision after "extensive discussions" about the status of the three players in the last few days.
"The privilege of representing the University of Minnesota comes with great responsibility, and we hold all of our student-athletes accountable," Goetz said in the statement distributed by the school.
The Gophers lost 84-71 at Illinois on Sunday with only six available scholarship players. Walk-on freshman Stephon Sharp started at point guard, a position he hadn't played since fifth grade, and only seven players appeared on the court. Dorsey, Mason and McBrayer traveled to the game but sat on the bench in street clothes. They will continue to practice with the team.
Mason, a sophomore, leads the Gophers (8-20, 2-14 Big Ten) with averages of 13.8 points and 32.6 minutes per game. Dorsey and McBrayer are freshmen, both among the top eight players on the team in terms of time on the court.
Dorsey was suspended for the Nov. 6 exhibition game against Southwest Minnesota State because he "failed to meet his academic obligations," Pitino said then. Pitino dismissed senior forward Carlos Morris from the team two weeks ago for "conduct detrimental to the team." Several others have been dismissed for various reasons since he succeeded Tubby Smith nearly three years ago.
"We believe in our culture, and if we've got to look to do things better we'll do them," Pitino said, when asked whether any change needed to be made to the staff's recruitment philosophy or process.
The Gophers were already playing this season without transfers Davonte Fitzgerald and Reggie Lynch, who had to sit out by NCAA rule. Freshman Jarvis Johnson was not allowed to play because of a heart condition. The Gophers will have just nine players in uniform against Wisconsin, six on scholarship and only five who have played regularly this season.
"We've got to come out and compete with whatever guys that we've got," senior forward Joey King said.
The suspended players addressed their teammates after the punishment was meted out, but the Gophers declined to divulge the nature of the conversation.
"It's obviously a little frustrating, but what it comes down to is we hold ourselves to a high standard," King said. "Mistakes happen, and you've got to deal with the consequences. Coach made a decision, and that's final."
Sharp, a freshman who played at Twin Cities area powerhouse Hopkins High School, had logged 39 minutes all season until the Illinois game. He played 39 minutes in the loss, scoring 19 points after learning the morning of the game of his suddenly enhanced role.
"I was just excited to play," Sharp said.