U. of Minnesota Sued Over '80s Era Abuse Allegations

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A federal lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the University of Minnesota and additional hockey organizations of ignored allegations that a coach was abusing players in the 1980s.

As reported by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, the suit filed by Gophers recruit Mike Sacks and four other men accuses Thomas “Chico” Adrahtas of blindfolding his teenage and college-age victims and sexually assaulting them while making them believe a woman named “Sheila” was performing a sex act on them. Sacks alleges that when Minnesota's athletic director at the time, Paul Giel, was told of the abuse he failed to alert law enforcement and instead reported Adrahtas’ actions to the Board of Regents, which failed to act. Giel died in 2002.

"Paul Giel, the Athletic Department, UMN and its Board devised a plan to conceal Defendant Adrahtas' criminal activity to avoid negative press and exposure to civil liability and criminal charges," the suit alleges.

That plan involved firing head coach Brad Buetow without explanation, allowing Adrahtas to resign and kicking Sacks out of the hockey program two months after being promised a full athletic scholarship.

The "Sheila" ruse was repeated many times, with other adults paying to perform the "Sheila" role, according to the suit.

Sacks had the longest relationship with Adrahtas among the plaintiffs, beginning when Sacks was 15 and playing for the coach on a Chicago-area traveling team and lasting three years. In 1984, Sacks joined a St. Paul junior team and Adrahtas joined the Gophers staff. "Sheila" also moved to Minnesota, the coach told his victim, and the abuse continued to occur on a weekly basis.

The Star Tribune reported that when Sacks stopped participating in the sex ruse, Adrahtas targeted other players that appeared "shy, gullible and did not have girlfriends."

One of those players was Minnesota team captain Tony Kellin, who was immediately suspicious and came up with a sting operation. Some players accepted the offer of sex, while others waited outside and monitored every point of entry. When no "Sheila" appeared, they realized what Adrahtas was doing and went to Giel and other university personnel with what they found.

After one season with the Gophers, Adrahtas, then 29, resigned in June 1985 citing personal reasons. From there, he bounced around as a coach primarily in the Chicago area.

In 1988, a junior hockey team owner in Chicago checked with the university while considering Adrahtas for a coaching position. The suit alleges the university "did not inform [the owner] that Defendant Adrahtas was forced to leave his job after committing sexual assaults while employed at UMN," the Star Tribune reported.

In 2018, Adrahtas quit after 10 years as the men's head hockey coach at Chicago's Robert Morris University (now Roosevelt University) because of the allegations.

In June 2020, the federally authorized U.S. Center for SafeSport permanently banned Adrahtas from coaching virtually any sport at any amateur level anywhere in the country. The suit spells out assaults in Minnesota, Illinois and Florida. He was never charged with a crime.

The university offered no comment to the Star Tribune at this time, other than to share conclusions of a law firm hired by the university to investigate the players' claims.

The firm of Perkins Coie "found that sexual abuse allegations … were known by individuals within the University's Athletic Department at or around the time of the former assistant coach's departure from the University," read the university's statement, first made last fall. "Despite this knowledge, available evidence shows no action taken by the University to investigate the allegations at that time. This University bears responsibility for that failure."

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