The University of Tennessee called a press conference Tuesday involving 16 of its varsity coaches.
The joint news conference took place in the midst of a federal lawsuit that was filed Feb. 9 against the university, in which six unidentified women alleged that Tennessee had violated Title IX laws in its handling of sexual assault cases. The suit also claims that the university enabled sexual assaults on campus through the “hostile sexual environment” of its student culture and administrative processes, which interfered with the discipline of male athletes.
The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Dustin Dopirak reports that all of the coaches in attendance Tuesday spoke positively about the university and its athletic department.
Men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, who arrived at the university in April after the events of the lawsuit took place, said the coaches called for the press conference independent of the athletic department.
“We don’t need the stereotype that there’s something out there that’s not true,” Barnes said. “We have to stand up and tell you all the good side of it too. We have to do that.”
Veteran co-head softball coach Karen Weekly called the culture at Tennessee “wonderful,” saying that it’s “the best it’s ever been.”
“The image being displayed of our culture is unfair,” Weekly added.
The suit against Tennessee came two weeks after Florida State reached a settlement with former student Erica Kinsman, whose Title IX lawsuit involved former Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston and accused FSU of being indifferent to her sexual assault case. She also claimed that the school hindered the investigation so that Winston could continue to play football.