MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- At least 13 football players misused a University of Minnesota long-distance telephone access code and will be suspended until they repay about $420 in charges, the school said Wednesday.
A preliminary investigation found that the 13 players admitted using the code but denied knowing it was only for university-authorized use.
University general counsel Mark Rotenberg, who is overseeing the investigation, said more than 1,500 improper phone calls worth more than $1,600 were charged by both athletes and non-athletes to the academic counseling department's access code between Aug. 29 and Nov. 29.
Three of the players charged more than $100 each while one charged about $1.30. About $650 in calls were from dormitory rooms of five students who are not athletes.
Rotenberg said his office would continue to investigate and noted it is likely that the number of improper calls and dollar value will rise. He said it wasn't known who obtained the code.
"We hope to get to the bottom of that soon," Rotenberg said. "Our suspicion is that a student-athlete got the code and then in different ways distributed it to different people."
Rotenberg said that since the investigation did not find that any players received the code from a university employee as a benefit, the university believes that no NCAA violations occurred. The incident has been reported to the NCAA. Any other discipline against students will come after the investigation is finished. Rotenberg said campus police are not involved in the case.
Mason informed the players after practice Wednesday of their punishment. He said he expected all of them to repay the money before the team leaves Friday for Miami, where Minnesota will play in the Micronpc.com Bowl on Dec. 28.
"It was a one-sided conversation," Mason said. "Obviously I can't physically force them to pay. I'm not really concerned. I'd be shocked if they all didn't pay."
Mason expressed his frustration with the distraction posed to the team as it prepares to play North Carolina State. He had to miss half of Wednesday's practice to meet about the investigation.
"I don't mind cleaning up my own messes, but when I'm cleaning someone else's mess up I get a little irritated," he said. "Playing intercollegiate athletics is a privilege."
If any of the players fails to repay the charges by Friday, the Gophers' depth could take an even bigger hit. Minnesota's secondary is already without two starters from the beginning of the season. Cornerback Willie Middlebrooks broke his leg against Indiana and was lost for the year. Free safety and leading tackler Delvin Jones was recently suspended from school for a semester for a matter most likely unrelated to the phone code investigation.
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