The football culture at Tennessee is rapidly coming under heavy fire and intense scrutiny, with yet another disturbing layer emerging as more details of a lawsuit come to light.
Tuesday, six unnamed women who claim they were victims of sexual assault at the hands of UT student-athletes filed a federal lawsuit in which they claimed the university “has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then uses an unusual, legalistic adjudication process that is biased against victims who step forward.” Four football players, three former and one unnamed current, are mentioned in the suit.
Also mentioned in the suit is a former UT football player, Drae Bowles, who it’s alleged was assaulted by his Vols teammates after he had “taken Plaintiff Doe IV to the hospital the night of her assault and who had supported her decision to report the incident to the authorities.” As it turns out, The Tennessean reports, Bowles was also attacked a few days later at the football facility by the same teammates who had attacked him the first time.
The twin attacks were just part of a pattern of alleged retribution against Bowles by his teammates, as well as what’s been described as “deliberate indifference” on the part of university officials and athletic department personnel. From the paper’s accounting of the lawsuit, with the “Williams” in question being Mike Williams, a former UT defensive back who’s facing trial next month on rape charges:
While the woman, a student-athlete, was meeting with executive senior associate athletics director Jon Gilbert, senior associate athletics director Mike Ward and her coach, she received a message from her roommate “who was witnessing at that moment several football players jumping” Bowles, the lawsuit says. The woman informed the athletics officials of the incident and was told they would “look into it,” according to the suit. The lawsuit says “athletic coaches were present during that altercation.”
But, the lawsuit says, Williams told police in November 2014 that then-Tennessee defensive back Geraldo Orta had “a hit” out on Bowles.
According to the lawsuit, Orta, a Valdosta, Ga. native, told University of Tennessee police he felt “Bowles betrayed the team and that where (Orta) came from, people got shot for doing what Bowles did.”
Orta told police in an interview conducted during an investigation into the sexual assault claims against Johnson and Williams that he approached Bowles in Smokey’s Café, the athletics dining facility. Orta admitted getting “in (Bowles’) face” and saying “some threatening things,” according to interviews with police cited in the lawsuit.
Orta also told police that then-Tennessee star Curt Maggitt confronted Bowles in the team locker room “before the team was instructed by head coach Butch Jones not to talk to him and before Bowles was given time away from the team,” the suit says.
In interviews with police, Maggitt said he confronted Bowles and said he purchased alcohol for the party at which the Jane Doe plaintiff was allegedly assaulted, the lawsuit says. Neither Orta nor Maggitt were disciplined, according to the lawsuit.
Shortly after the alleged attacks in November of 2014, the first of which came one day after Plaintiff Doe IV was allegedly raped, Bowles transferred out of the football program and continued his playing career at Chattanooga.
The alleged victim helped by the player claimed in the lawsuit that “the incidents involving Bowles contributed to a culture that intimidated victims of sexual assault by football players.”
Ahead of the start of spring practice next month, Iowa State’s returning offensive production has taken a significant hit.
Wednesday, ISU announced in a press release that wide receiver D'Vario Montgomery and running back Joshua Thomas are no longer a part of first-year head coach Matt Campbell‘s Cyclones football program. Montgomery was dismissed by Campbell for the standard unspecified violations of team rules, while Thomas has decided to transfer out.
Last season as a redshirt junior, Montgomery was third on the team in receiving yards (335) and receiving touchdowns (three), while his 27 receptions were fourth. A year earlier, he led the Cyclones with 605 yards receiving.
Montgomery came to ISU as a transfer from USF in 2013.
Thomas, meanwhile, was second among Cyclone running backs with 295 yards rushing, and led the team with seven rushing touchdowns. With the emergence of Freshman All-American Mike Warren (team-leading 1,339 yards), however, the freshman Thomas has opted to transfer to another program that might give him a better opportunity to be a feature back.
Thomas is actually the second ISU running back to transfer in less than a month. In late January, it was confirmed that Tyler Brown, who began 2015 as the starter, had decided to leave Ames as well.
Late last month, Florida State settled a lawsuit with a former student who alleged she’d been raped by a member of the Seminoles football program. Two weeks later, it’s Tennessee that now finds itself under the ever-growing spotlight of sexual assaults on college campuses.
In a Title IX lawsuit filed by six UT students in federal court in Nashville Tuesday, it’s alleged, The Tennessean writes, that the university “has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then uses an unusual, legalistic adjudication process that is biased against victims who step forward.” Four former Volunteer student-athletes, including three football players, were identified by name in the lawsuit as having sexually assaulted the alleged victims — former basketball player Yemi Makanjuola, former football players A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams and Riyahd Jones.
A fifth UT student-athlete is identified in the lawsuit only as a current football player named “John Doe.” One of the plaintiffs alleges that she was raped by a non-football player, also identified as a “John Doe,” at a football team party.
None of the six women involved in the suit are named.
One of the most damning portions of the lawsuit alleges that top UT officials, including current head football coach Butch Jones, were aware of incidents of sexual assault involving football players but were “indifferent” to the allegations.
UT administration (Chancellor Jimmy Cheek), athletic department (Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director) Dave Hart and football coach (Butch Jones) were personally aware (as ‘appropriate persons’ under Title IX) and had actual notice of previous sexual assaults and rapes by football players, yet acted with deliberate indifference to the serious risks of sexual assaults and failed to take corrective actions.
Additionally, the Associated Press wrote, “Tim Rogers, a former vice chancellor for student life, stepped down in 2013 ‘in protest over the violation of Title IX and the UT administration’s and athletic department’s deliberate indifference to the clear and present danger of sexual assaults by UT athletes.'”
It’s further alleged in the suit that a former UT football player, Drae Bowles, was assaulted by his Vols teammates after he had “taken Plaintiff Doe IV to the hospital the night of her assault and who had supported her decision to report the incident to the authorities.” Shortly after that November of 2014 attack, which came one day after Plaintiff Doe IV was allegedly raped, Bowles transferred out of the football program and continued his playing career at Chattanooga.
Eight months later, it was confirmed that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) had launched an investigation into a lengthy list of sexual assault allegations at UT, a handful of which involved football players.
Following an investigation by local law enforcement that began in November of 2014, Williams, a then-current UT cornerback, and Johnson, a star linebacker who had just completed his senior season, were indicted in mid-February of last year by a Knox County grand jury on two counts each of aggravated rape. Both pleaded not guilty a month later, although Johnson had already seen his invitation to the NFL combine rescinded while it was reported in June that the Vols had “moved on” from Williams.
According to reports that surfaced in mid-November, a 19-year-old UT student claimed that Johnson and Williams raped her at the former’s residence in a Knoxville apartment complex. The unnamed woman claimed that the assault lasted 45 minutes, and occurred during the course of a party being held following UT’s win over Kentucky. Another 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted at the same location around the same time by Williams.
The first woman was treated at the UT Medical Center. The second alleged victim declined treatment and headed back to her home in Florida. She also initially declined to pursue charges despite claims of being sexually assaulted, but did cooperate with the grand jury.
Then, in late April of last year, reports surfaced that wide receiver Von Pearson was a suspect in the investigation of an alleged rape. Pearson has been indefinitely suspended by his head coach, and in August it was announced that Pearson would not face charges.
Those are the three that have been well-publicized and chronicled; according to The Tennessean at the time, however, there were three other Vols football players who were on the roster in 2014 who had been accused of sexual assault.
In April of 2013, running back Marlin Lane, whose eligibility expired after the 2014 season, was on the receiving end of what turned out to be a two-month suspension that was attributed to “disciplinary reasons.” The paper writes that “Lane… was named as a suspect in the rape of an 18-year-old high school student in Lane’s dorm room on April 9, 2013,” four days before his suspension. No charges were filed after the alleged victim declined to pursue the case.
In February of last year, Riyahd Jones, who was on the team in 2014, was named as a suspect in a sexual assault that was reported to the Knoxville police. The Tennessean writes that “[n]o charges have been filed, and police have declined to provide a copy of the full police report, saying that the district attorney’s office could still decide to pursue charges. Ultimately, the alleged victim declined to pursue charges in the case.
In September of 2014, an unnamed football player was named in the sexual assault of a female freshman student. An internal investigation found that no sexual assault had occurred and that instead the sex was consensual. He remained on the team and in good standing.
In response to the federal lawsuit, the university released the following statement:
Like the many other college campuses facing the challenges of sexual assault, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has devoted significant time and energy to provide a safe environment for our students, to educate and raise awareness about sexual assault, and to encourage students to come forward and report sexual assault. When the University receives a report of sexual assault, we offer care and support to the person who came forward and work to investigate and resolve the matter in a timely, thorough, and equitable manner. When warranted, the University takes disciplinary action but will not do so in a manner that violates state law or the constitutional due process rights of our students.
“In the situations identified in the lawsuit filed today; the University acted lawfully and in good faith, and we expect a court to agree. Any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true. To claim that we have allowed a culture to exist contrary to our institutional commitment to providing a safe environment for our students or that we do not support those who report sexual assault is just false. The University will provide a detailed response to the lawsuit and looks forward to doing so at the appropriate time, and in the proper manner.
In a move that’s been more than two years in the making, Ron English is officially back in the coaching profession at the collegiate level.
In a press release that confirmed the reports that surfaced late last month, San Jose State announced that English was one of four additions made to Ron Caragher‘s Spartans coaching staff. As expected, English will serve as Caragher’s defensive coordinator.
This marks English’s first job since controversy marked the end of his last.
Eastern Michigan announced Nov. 8, 2013, one day before its game with in-state rival Western Michigan, that English had been fired as its head football coach. A day later, athlete director Heather Lyle alluded to a tape of English using “wholly inappropriate language” in a team meeting that had been brought to her attention and triggered the dismissal.
English subsequently apologized for losing his poise and using “homosexual slurs” in the meeting. In his mea culpa, English added that he is looking “forward to continuing a career that has been marked by molding men of integrity, passion, and intensity for 21 years.”
Unfortunately for the coach, that continuation took a two-year hiatus as he was sidelined for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
English spent nearly five full seasons as EMU’s head coach (2009-13). Prior to that, he was the defensive coordinator at Louisville (2008) and Michigan (2006-07).
“I’m excited about the new defensive staff members we added to our program,” the coach said in a statement. “Ron English has experience as a coordinator at the Division I level and as a head coach at Eastern Michigan. His experience and success in coaching will be a great addition.”
English becomes the replacement for Greg Robinson, who announced his retirement as SJSU’s coordinator this past December. Like English, Robinson was also a former Michigan coordinator.
In addition to English, the hirings of Arnold Ale as linebackers coach, Will Harris as defensive backs coach and Barry Sacks as defensive line coach were announced as well. Ale is a former teammate of Caragher’s at UCLA, while Sacks spent the past two seasons at New Mexico.