Michigan must address Gibbons questions

When Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Dec. 23 that kicker Brendan Gibbons would miss the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl because of family reasons, it quietly raised a few eyebrows.

Gibbons had been the subject of a washtenawwatchdogs.com report in August, which stated that Gibbons had been arrested in November 2009 following an alleged sexual assault against a female student. Ann Arbor police investigated but never charged Gibbons, but some very troubling allegations had been made against the kicker.

Then came The Michigan Daily report Tuesday that Michigan had expelled Gibbons for violating its sexual misconduct policy following an incident in November 2009. Although the university and the athletic department declined to comment about Gibbons, citing privacy laws, documents obtained by The Michigan Daily showed that Gibbons was notified in a Dec. 19 letter that he had been "permanently separated" from the school.

The Michigan Daily now reports that a signed agreement from Gibbons, confirming his permanent separation from Michigan and waiving his right to an appeal, was faxed from the Michigan football office on Dec. 19. An athletic department spokesman confirmed to the newspaper that Gibbons "came to talk" to athletic officials on that day.

But four days later, after Michigan arrived in Arizona for the bowl, Hoke said Gibbons didn't travel to the game because of a family issue.

So how early did Michigan officials know that Gibbons had been found responsible for violating the sexual misconduct policy? It might have been as late as Dec. 19. It might have been in November. The Michigan Daily reports that Stacy Vander Velde, associate director of the university's Office of Student Conflict Resolution, wrote in a Nov. 20 letter that the university had determined Gibbons "engaged in unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, committed without valid consent, and that conduct was so severe as to create a hostile, offensive, or abusive environment."

Gibbons played in a Nov. 23 game at Iowa. He sat out the following week against Ohio State because of an injury sustained in practice, according to Hoke.

Gibbons' eligibility is complete and he has yet to face any criminal charges, but the timeline of who knew what and when at Michigan is very much under the microscope. Why did it take four years for Michigan to find Gibbons in violation of a university policy? In a statement, Michigan says it followed the policy in effect at the time in 2009. A new policy adopted in 2013 states that if new information is obtained, another investigation can begin.

Whether the new information came from the alleged victim, or from the August report, is unclear. The university hasn't released any specifics regarding Gibbons' case, citing its policy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Hoke undoubtedly will face questions about his knowledge of the Gibbons situation Wednesday when he addresses reporters at Michigan's signing day news conference.

The big question is when the athletic department knew of Vander Velde's letter, and what it did or didn't do.

Gibbons isn't talking, and unless charges are filed, the only repercussion he'll face, besides the increased media attention, is removal from graduate school.

Michigan, meanwhile, eventually will have to answer some very tough questions about the situation.