By Eric Thomas
Are we asking the right questions with the Brendan Gibbons story? Ignore the police report. Ignore the alleged assault for a moment. Here’s a question: why do we know about this story? Not the alleged assault, that information emerged from a police report. How do we know that Gibbons was expelled? Why was the student newspaper suddenly in possession of TWO documents concerning that particular student’s enrollment status?
To recap, the Michigan Daily dropped a bombshell story last week when they reported Gibbons was expelled on Dec. 19th due to a “preponderance of evidence” in a case involving a sexual misconduct allegation from 2009.
This raised a lot of understandable questions: why did Hoke (and Brandon) allow Gibbons to play in a game against Iowa three days after he was sent a letter by Stacy Vander Velde, associate director of the University’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which indicated the aforementioned preponderance of evidence that supported “a finding that the Respondent engaged in unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature…?” Why did Hoke claim Gibbons was dealing with a “family matter” when he wasn’t involved with team activities for the BW3 Bowl? And— of course — there’s the ever present pitchfork and torch questions about the nature of Gibbon’s conduct.
All of those questions are valid and understandable, but there is one question that remains: why do we know this?
The expulsion of a student involves two parties: the student and the school. We know that Gibbons didn’t send the document to the Michigan Daily. He would want this issue to stay hidden, for obvious reasons. The only other party who would be privy to the expulsion documents would be the school.
The Daily also obtained an additional document, specifically showing that Gibbons himself was found responsible for his conduct on or before Nov. 23rd. How did the Daily get these TWO specific documents detailing a student’s enrollment? Who would have given it to them? How did they, as in the person who handed over the document, benefit?
Gibbons’ involvement in whatever occurred in the 2009 incident is a separate story. It didn’t result in charges, and that’s all we can say for sure. To take it any further is pure speculation. We can say, however, that a student’s documents concerning his enrollment somehow wound up published in the student-run newspaper. Who gave them those documents, and why did they hand them over? Who benefits? Who is the target of this? Doesn’t the timing of this disclosure sound spookily similar to the timing of Rich Rodriguez’s practice time scandal from February 2010?
Hoke was predictably cagey when he met with reporters on Monday. “So while I would like to be more forthcoming,” said Hoke, “I can’t provide any details due to federal privacy always and university policies.” He wasn’t under testimony when he met with reporters about Gibbon’s status with the team, if he set out a smoke screen to protect Gibbons, that’s understandable.
All this adds up to the continued circus atmosphere around Michigan’s once storied football program. This was a class organization that was good every year, but has collapsed, I believe, under the weight under its poor choices and hubris. I think the Gibbons story is indefensible, and he likely deserved whatever punishment he received, but how did his personal documents ended up in the pages of the Michigan Daily? Who sent it? How would that person benefit from it? Who were they trying to discredit?