Colorado professor alleges football coach tried to hijack his classroom mid-lecture

A Colorado School of Mines professor said the institution’s head football coach and associates barged into his classroom in the middle of a lecture last month, harassing the professor and nearly 100 students by blowing a whistle, turning off the projector and shouting at everyone to get out so the team could use the room.

Professor Ning Lu, who has been with the school for nearly 25 years and has expertise in soil and water, described the Oct. 8 incident as an act of workplace violence that left him rattled and sent at least one student into a panic attack.

Lu said he immediately reported the incident, but, a month later, has only been told the university investigation was completed.

Seven Mines students also reported the incident, said Emilie Rusch, a university spokeswoman. She said School of Mines officials investigated and took “swift, appropriate action.”

“Providing a safe and supportive environment where Mines students can learn is our No. 1 priority,” Rusch said. “While we cannot confirm the specifics of this incident, Mines does not condone disruptions that impact the educational process in our classrooms.”

Rusch said the school cannot comment on confidential personnel matters but that disciplinary action was taken.

Gregg Brandon, the School of Mines’ head football coach, remains in his position, the university confirmed.

Brandon did not respond to a request for comment from The Denver Post.

“Mr. Brandon committed workplace violence in public on Oct.  8,” Lu said. “Not only verbal violence, but physical intimidation… Not only targeting the class by himself, but also directing another individual to target me… Not only causing classroom chaos, but leading to multiple people physically and emotionally shaken and causing student panic attack.

“My class and I have been kept in complete darkness about whether and what the university did to investigate this horrible incident of workplace violence, all under the cover of ‘confidential personnel matter,’” he said.

On Oct. 8, Lu said he and the students in his soil mechanics class — which is taught in a room in the football stadium complex — waited outside their classroom for about 15 minutes because the football team was in the room.

“This was the third time this semester that my class started late because the football team wanted to use the room,” Lu said. “The head coach was well aware that it was our scheduled class time, and, in fact, he had told me in the weeks before that I should expect to start class late because he wanted to use the room instead.”

Lu finally entered the room and asked the people inside to leave so he could begin teaching, he said.

They left, and Lu said he began his lesson. But, he said, he soon was interrupted by Brandon, who entered the room shouting that he was the head coach and instructing everyone to leave. Nobody left, Lu said, and the class continued.

Soon after, Lu said his class was interrupted again by the sharp sounds of a whistle blowing, and Brandon and associates — Lu didn’t know whether they were student athletes or Brandon’s peers — entered the room. Lu also said he was unsure who blew the whistle.

The university said no student athletes were involved in the incident but did not confirm who else accompanied Brandon.

“One person directly approached me at the podium, shut down my projector, and made moves that suggested he wanted to remove my other things and possibly even me,” Lu said. “I told him to stop, and the person eventually stopped. Meanwhile, Mr. Brandon was shouting a lot at the students and his team, trying verbally and physically to get students out.”

Students panicked and some fled the room, Lu said. One student had a panic attack in the hallway, the professor said.

Brandon eventually left the room, Lu said, but came back shortly after, asking Lu to write his name down on a piece of paper.

“I was shaken,” Lu said. “For the students’ sake, I kept my composure and resumed teaching for the fourth time and finished the class.”

Days after the incident, an HR representative and athletic director David Hansburg came to Lu’s class to apologize for the events that happened, Lu said. Lu said the university told him they investigated the incident and that appropriate action had been taken — but could not be shared.

Lu said he and his class deserve to know the outcome of the investigation and that he wanted to know specifically what policy prevented the university from sharing any information about the investigation.

He also requested that the university publicly condemn the incident.

“We are a public university, and this happened in public,” Lu said. “To me, it’s clear they want to sweep this under the rug and that they’re covering it up and want this to go away.”

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