If the allegation against University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones turns out to be true, he should be immediately fired.
On Wednesday, Tennessee sophomore wide receiver Drae Bowles alleged in an amended complaint filed in a Title IX lawsuit against the university that Jones told Bowles that he “betrayed the team” after the player helped a woman who said she had been sexually assaulted by two of his teammates.
Later on Wednesday, Jones, who is starting his fourth season at UT, said Bowles’ claim is “absolutely false.”
The statement he released went on to say, “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.”
I hope Jones is telling the truth and that this is the result of some misunderstanding in conversation between him and Bowles.
I don’t know Jones or care about Tennessee football, but the alternative – that Bowles is accurately describing what was said – would be a sad, sad commentary on how the misogynistic and hostile environment toward women associated with male athletics is still alive and thriving well into the 21st century.
Bowles said that in November 2014, he was driving when he noticed a woman crying and hyperventilating in a parking lot. He stopped to help her. The woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted by UT football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams.
They called 911 and he escorted the woman to Volunteer Hall to meet an ambulance.
Bowles, who later transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga, said that later in the day he was confronted by teammate Curt Maggitt, who questioned him about his actions and then punched him in the mouth as retribution for helping the woman.
Bowles said in the suit that the next day he was confronted by teammates Geraldo Orta and Marlin Lane in the athletes’ dining hall and was attacked again.
Maggitt admitted to the police that he assaulted Bowles.
Bowles alleges that when he talked to Jones about what was happening, the coach told him he “betrayed the team.” He said Jones later called him to apologize.
The suit claims Jones did not discipline Maggitt, Orta or Lane but Bowles was given time away from the program.
Jones and Williams are scheduled for separate trials on rape charges this year. The alleged victim transferred from Tennessee saying in part that the treatment of Bowles made her fear for her own safety because of potential retaliation.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Jones and the coaches of each UT sports team presented a united front defending the culture in the athletic department.
There have been several sexual assault claims made against Tennessee athletes in the past four years.
“I don’t want you to think in any way, shape or form that we don’t feel for the alleged victims,” Jones said. “We feel for them. I hurt for them. We all hurt for them. I want to make sure people understand that. That hits at our soul.”
Obviously, this must run through the legal system and it will be decided which story is more credible.
But, ultimately, if Jones is found to have called Bowles a traitor for helping a woman who had a violent and degrading assault committed against her, there is no place for him as the coach of young men.