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UMass football coach under fire

A petition started by several former Umass football players accuses Minutemen coach Charley Molnar (above) and his staff of mistreating players.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

A petition started by several former Umass football players accuses Minutemen coach Charley Molnar (above) and his staff of mistreating players.

A petition started by several former University of Massachusetts football players accuses Minutemen coach Charley Molnar and his staff of mistreating the players and made a plea for an improvement in the quality of the program, which moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision last year.

Pointing to the large number of players that left the program after last season and also citing conversations with current players, the petition said, “It’s time we had a collective voice on this issue to help institute change and bring awareness to how the program is being run.”

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The petition, initially posted on the UMass Football Alumni private Facebook page, included YouTube footage from a 2012 winter conditioning session, which showed players wrestling and boxing each other as teammates circled around to watch.

“The former players are interested in the integrity of the program. The video speaks for itself,” said Bill DeFlavio, president of the UMass Football Alumni, who declined further comment.

According to John Sinnett, the university’s associate director of media relations, the school became aware of the petition late last week.

“We are aware of the alumni’s online petition and what they’ve stated,” UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said in a statement. “Student-athletes’ well-being is our No. 1 priority. We are looking into the matter and we’ll deal with it accordingly.”

Sinnett called the petition “disconcerting” because the alumni group hadn’t communicated with the athletic department prior to starting it.

The video, which was originally intended as a pregame motivational tool, was posted online more than a year ago but received little fanfare until now.

At the time of the practices, the drills Molnar implemented were within NCAA rules. In March 2012, the NCAA adjusted its interpretation so that conditioning activities outside of the playing season could not include contact-related drills or activities including wrestling, combative activities, blocking drills.

“Those activities were used at numerous institutions around the NCAA in winter conditioning workouts,” Sinnett said. “It was something that many football programs used as part of their regimen until the NCAA did send out an interpretation in March of 2012.

“So we don’t use those activities in our winter conditioning anymore.”

As of Thursday evening, the petition, which is posted on Change.org, had more than 130 supporters.

Molnar was unavailable for comment.

The 52-year-old joined the Minutemen last season as it transitioned to the FBS. In his first season, UMass went 1-11; this season, the Minutemen are 0-4.

Molnar told the Daily Hampshire Gazette, “We have relatively few alumni that ever come back to watch practice or watch winter workouts. No matter how hard I’ve tried, we don’t have a great alumni connection. It wasn’t there when I took over and no matter how hard I’ve worked, it still is not there. How could anyone know what goes on inside our program?

“The welfare and positive experience of being a student-athlete at UMass is my No. 1 priority with these guys. My goal is to make each of these young men better husbands, better fathers, better community leaders. I work on that with our guys each and every day. I’m driven that our guys succeed in the classroom as well as on the football field.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com. Globe correspondent Peter Cappiello contributed to this report.
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