Lawsuit: Ex-Gopher hockey assistant coach sexually assaulted players, cover-up led to more abuse

The University of Minnesota has been hit with a lawsuit alleging a former assistant coach for the Gopher men's hockey team in the 1980s sexually assaulted players, leading to a cover-up by the program that allowed the coach to continue to abuse others for decades following his resignation.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the District of Minnesota U.S. District Court against Thomas Adrahtas, the U of M, the Board of Regents, and USA Hockey Amateur Hockey Association Illinois.

"Adrahtas used his position of trust and confidence, as a head hockey coach, in an abusive manner causing Plaintiffs to suffer a variety of injuries including shock, humiliation, emotional and psychological distress and related physical manifestations thereof, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, and loss of enjoyment of life," read the lawsuit.

Over his decades-long career, Adrahtas became known as a respected recruiter and coach, who played a key role in helping players earn college scholarships.

The lawsuit alleges from 1983 to 2018, Adrahtas used his position as a Gopher hockey assistant coach and youth USA hockey coach for multiple programs to target players, groom, and sexually abuse them. The alleged victims ranged in age from 15 to 20 years old.

Adrahtas' alleged scheme involved telling players they could get fellatio from a woman named "Sheila," if they wore a blindfold. According to the lawsuit, "Sheila" was not real and in fact, it was Adrahtas performing the act.

Adrahtas became an assistant coach for the Minnesota Gophers in the spring of 1984, according to the lawsuit. During this time, he targeted Gopher players that we "shy, gullible and did not have girlfriends" for his scheme, the lawsuit alleges.

In 1985, a group of Gophers players performed a sting operation to find out who "Sheila" was. After their suspicions were confirmed, the players reported the sexual assaults to then-Athletic Director Paul Giel. However, instead of launching an investigation, the lawsuit claims the university created a plan to conceal the assaults and allowed Adrahtas to resign from the program. The head coach Brad Buetow, who hired Adrahtas, was fired. The U of M also withdrew a scholarship to one of Adrahtas' alleged teenage victims.

The lawsuit alleges the U of M did not mention the allegations when providing job references for Adrahtas following his resignation in the late '80s.

"UMN and its Board’s failure to appropriately respond to Defendant Adrahtas’ sexual assault of its hockey players resulted in Defendant Adrahtas’ continued sexual assault, abuse, and molestation of young boys, including minors, through approximately 2018," reads the lawsuit.

Adrahtas went on to coach and be involved with various youth hockey programs in Illinois until 2018. Despite continued complaints to leaders with USA Hockey Amateur Hockey Association Illinois, the lawsuit states a formal internal investigation was not completed.

Adrahtas later became a coach at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania in 2010. After an alleged victim from the '80s filed a complaint in 2018, Adrahtas resigned from RMU and an investigation was completed by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. In 2020, USA Hockey issued Adrahtas a lifetime ban.

A U of M spokesperson said the university had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, but stated the university does not comment on pending litigation.