KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart stood by his embattled football coach during a news conference Thursday at the university, two weeks after a federal lawsuit was filed Feb. 9 in Nashville alleging that Tennessee mishandles assault complaints against athletes.
An amended complaint filed Wednesday stated former Tennessee football player Drae Bowles assisted a woman who said she had been raped by two other players and that later he was attacked by teammates and told by coach Butch Jones he had “betrayed the team.”
“I trust Butch Jones implicitly,” Hart said. “I know who he is, I know what his work ethic is.”MORE: Lawsuit claims Butch Jones called UT player ‘traitor’ for helping rape victim
Hart, who said he couldn’t address the specifics of the lawsuit, did say he has tremendous empathy and sympathy for alleged victims and all victims of sexual assault across the country.
“It is simply an unacceptable act,” Hat said, adding that university Chancellor Jimmy Cheek has made this his top priority. “This has to gain the attention of everyone.”
The amended complaint also added two more plaintiffs to the lawsuit, which alleges Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes. The suit now includes eight unidentified women as plaintiffs.
According to the complaint, a woman called 911 from former Volunteers receiver Bowles’ car to report a rape in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2014.
The complaint also states that Bowles suffered a bloody lip when teammate Curt Maggitt punched him in the mouth later that day and that he was confronted by teammates Geraldo Orta and Marlin Lane the following day.
Bowles called Jones to tell him about being punched, and Jones said he was very disappointed in Bowles and that the receiver had “betrayed the team,” causing the player to break down and cry, according to the complaint. It states Jones called Bowles several hours later to apologize for his comments.
The woman’s report of the attack led to the arrests of former linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams, who were indicted on aggravated rape charges in February 2015.
Although the allegations that Bowles was attacked by teammates were in the original complaint filed Feb. 9 in Nashville, the amendment adds details and a signed declaration from Bowles that states the allegations in the suit “are true with respect to the statements and descriptions of events pertaining to me.”
“The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false,” Jones said in a statement late Wednesday night. “To the contrary, I did all I could to assist the former student in question. During the course of the judicial process, campus officials, as well as the young man’s own words, will clearly establish that I have done nothing wrong.
“I will fight all of these false attacks on my character, and I know that once this process has been completed, my reputation will be affirmed.”
Tennessee’s lawyer, Bill Ramsey, issued a statement Wednesday saying that the university has reviewed the amended complaint “and we continue to stand by our actions.”
Bowles transferred to Chattanooga after the 2014 season.