University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin spoke with reporters this afternoon on a conference call to address allegations in an upcoming ESPN Outside the Lines program that university officials and coaches knew of alleged acts of violence against women by former football player Derrick Washington and failed to act.
Earlier in the day, Loftin released a statement through the university that read in part:
“As it relates to one case highlighted in the report of an assault in 2008, our internal processes broke down, and the proper procedures were not followed regarding the student conduct discipline process and a necessary Title IX investigation. In regard to the allegation that a member of our coaching staff threatened to revoke the scholarship of a student-athlete if she pressed charges in an assault case, as soon as we learned of the Columbia Police Report, we spoke to the coach, the former player and others and found that claim to be unsubstantiated.”
You can click here to read the full press release.
To read the transcript of the conference call with reporters, click here.
Watch Derrick Washington’s police interview
Watch the Outside the Lines segment
You say you don’t see evidence of intentional mishandling, but the report also indicates assistant football coaches met with Washington’s parents. How can you be sure there was no cover-up?
That statement I saw for the first time today. I’ve tried to track that down today. Little time has been in place to make that happen. One question might be are we talking about 2008 or 2010 here? I have not been able to verify that our assistant coaches talked to either Derrick or his parents in 2008. We’re still trying to track that down as we speak.
What is your understanding of the 2010 incident in which the women’s soccer player involved in the fight with Washington and his girlfriend alleged that Coach Bryan Blitz said her scholarship could be in jeopardy if she reported Washington to the police?
When we first learned of this particular thing — which came about first because of our access to a Columbia Police Department report this year, this happened fairly recently — that is the first time we were aware of the allegations that one of the soccer players had talked to her coach in that particular situation. We immediately began to look into that. We’ve done a real discussion about that. We’ve talked to 23 people so far about that particular incident.
What seems to be clear is the soccer coach and the player had a conversation. Sometimes two people talk to each other and leave that room with a different understanding of that conversation. The soccer coach was clearly trying to tell his player — because she was arrested by the Columbia Police Department for fighting with the other girl — that her involvement with the law in this case could result in the revocation of her scholarship. My understanding — and my understanding only right now, having looked at some of the documentation and other pieces of it — that she walked away, apparently, with a different impression of that. That if she were to pursue this, that there’d be a loss of scholarship possibly because of the involvement of Washington in this.
That was not, in my understanding, the intent of the soccer coach.
Have you talked with Mike Alden and Gary Pinkel about, knowing what they knew of Washington’s 2008 rape allegation, why he was allowed to stay on the team?
As appropriate, I have talked extensively to Athletic Director Alden about this. I don’t normally delve down below him to talk to coaches individually about issues like this. My assurance coming back up is that the proper procedure was followed at the coaching level and the AD’s level at the time this happened. Now, I think, since that time, there have been some changes in our procedures and policies in the department. I can’t comment on how it would be handled today. But what I was assured by my athletic director was, at the time this happened, we followed proper procedures as the athletic department had in place at that time.
Did you have any indication of when the ESPN report was coming out?
We did not know when it was going to come out, precisely. We had been dealing with ESPN for months in terms of their requests for information. We were aware of all that. So there were months of time here that we were aware there was a story being planned. We were not aware until this morning about the exact timing of when that might come out.
So the soccer player from 2010 has since said she misunderstood the conversation?
I wouldn’t put it that way. What I’m saying is that I believe, having read the documentation I have in hand right now, the soccer coach was trying to communicate the seriousness of being arrested. The circumstances were that a fight occurred where two people were arrested that were fighting. Both female. An arrest is a serious issue for anybody, including a student-athlete, that does make possible the revocation of a student-athlete’s scholarship if they’re arrested and go through the process that adjudicates them to be found guilty. That’s a real possibility. The coach felt he had to make sure she understood how serious that was. I think that’s where his perspective was. She may have taken it somewhat differently. That’s what she said, apparently, to the police officer. I became aware of it only when I saw the Columbia Police Department report, and that was not that many months ago.
Are you encouraging Alden or Pinkel to address this situation publicly?
I believe both Director Alden and Coach Pinkel will, fairly soon, be able to talk to you about this. Again, this happened late this morning. Coach Pinkel has not been heavily involved in this conversation to date. Putting him in front of you right now before he has time to digest what this story really says would have been probably inappropriate. We don’t want to hold him back, but the issue was putting me up front first. I’ve kind of been dealing with this for several months now in all kinds of aspects, so I’ve kind of had the broadest view of it. That seemed most appropriate. We have no problem making our coaches and our athletic director available to you at the right time.