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U fires Tracy Claeys as Gophers football coach

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Coach Tracey Claeys during the Holiday Bowl.
Tracey Claeys looks on as his University of Minnesota squad takes on Washington State University in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Dec. 27. He was fired Tuesday.
Sean M. Haffey | Getty Images

Updated 8:30 p.m. | Posted 4 p.m.

The University of Minnesota on Tuesday fired head football coach Tracy Claeys. 

The firing follows months of turmoil in the program over allegations of sexual assault by members of the team and the responses to those allegations by Claeys and university leaders.

"This decision is about the future of Minnesota football," athletics director Mark Coyle said in a statement on Tuesday. "Moving forward, we need a leader who sets high expectations athletically, academically, and socially." 

Most of Claeys' assistants also were fired. The U said coaches Dan O'Brien and Mike Sherels agreed to remain to help with the transition.

Ten players were suspended from the football team after an on-campus investigation found them guilty of violating school policy. That investigation says the athletes were involved in what a student described as multiple sexual assaults of the same woman.

On Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he reviewed the university's more detailed internal report. He called the men's conduct "deplorable" but added that there was no significant new evidence that would enable prosecutors to bring charges.

The team briefly boycotted all football activities after the suspensions were announced. Claeys tweeted support of his players, which some criticized as tone deaf and insensitive. 

Coyle said Tuesday that the tweet and fallout from the sexual assault investigation weren't the only reasons for Claeys' firing. 

"This isn't about one specific incident. I've been here six months," Coyle said. "I think the events of the past few weeks underscored the concerns and some of the things I've been seeing with [the football program.]"

At a press conference Tuesday night, Coyle acknowledged frustrations from football players and others with his decision to fire Claeys. 

Coyle said he wasn't pressured to fire the coach.

"I get that fans are frustrated. I get that students are frustrated, I hear them. I read those emails, I really do and I try to respond to them when I can," he said. "But I did not feel pressure from the outside forces."