Another potential scandal could rock the college football world, as an amended Title IX lawsuit was filed against the University of Tennessee on Wednesday. Former Vols receiver Drae Bowles has alleged that football coach Butch Jones called him a traitor for helping a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by two of Bowles’ teammates in November 2014.
Jones denied the allegation in a statement released by the university Wednesday night, and Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said Thursday that he trusts Jones “implicitly.”
So, what do we make of Hart and the university doubling down on Jones?
“When that affidavit dropped yesterday, my first reaction was, ‘Well, (Jones has) lost his job – along with the lawsuit – with the school,’” CBS Sports college football writer Dennis Dodd said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And then I got to thinking about it and I said, ‘No, no, no, they can’t afford to fire him. That’s a bad, bad look for Tennessee. That’s some sort of admission of liability in this case if they get rid of Butch Jones. . . . They’re going to get sued themselves if they fire Butch Jones. That’s one of the reasons these contracts are written so ambiguously. You can get fired for ‘cause.’ Well, what does cause mean? An NCAA violation, okay, that’s pretty cut and dry, but all the other stuff, if you read those contracts, it doesn’t say if you’re mentioned in a Title IX lawsuit or if women bring lawsuits against you or some of your players are accused. No, because the school doesn’t want to have to do that and the agent for the coach doesn’t want to be fired. So this is going to be a long, long process. I suspect it’ll be so long that Butch Jones will sink or swim on his record in the SEC just like he was going to do before this all started.”
Bowles, in a sworn statement, said he was punched in the mouth by then-teammate Curt Maggitt in as retribution for aiding the woman who claimed she had been raped by A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. Bowles transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga after the season.
“Having read the complaint, the only thing (to me) that’s really damning (to Tennessee) is the affidavit is pretty specific,” Dodd said. “Those same comments are included in the police report. In the police report, the kid says he was beat up for helping this woman. I don’t know if there’s any specific language in there of the coach calling him a traitor.”
Sixteen coaches at Tennessee participated in a press conference Tuesday, insisting that the campus culture in Knoxville is exemplary and that the university is being portrayed unfairly.
Dodd, however, saw it as coaches simply covering their backs and hoping against hope that none of the allegations hurt recruiting.
“That’s very crass and insensitive to say, but those coaches said it,” Dodd said. “They said it without saying it. A majority of those coaches up there weren’t coaching at Tennessee when a lot of this stuff allegedly went down. So they’re covering their backside. it’s kind of a sham, and it’s kind of insensitive for them to go out there in the middle of this and say, ‘We haven’t seen any of this.’ Well, of course you have. You’re going out on the road Tuesday to go pick up a power forward.”
Dodd believes that lawsuits against universities will only continue in the years to come.
“None of this stuff is going to stop,” he said. “It’s going to get more frequent. I tie this directly with the protest at Missouri. It is, in a way, nothing more than student-athletes feeling empowered, knowing their legal strategies, knowing that they are the unpaid labor force. We’re talking about social upheaval at Missouri. We know . . . that in terms of sexual assault . . . 80 to 90 percent of women in general don’t come forward because they feel shamed. They don’t want to face their accuser. And so if this (lawsuit) happens, I think that empowers women. I’m not passing judgment on Tennessee at all, but it’s going to happen in general more often, I think.”