As Tennessee’s football program faces allegations that it helped promote a culture of sexual assault, head coach Butch Jones again defended the merits of the team he leads.
Following his presentation at the Minority Coaches Association of Georgia’s Football Coaches Conference at Columbus State University, Jones was asked how he forges ahead in the midst of some serious sexual assault accusations the program faces.
"Stay the course," Jones said. "You know you do things right. We’ve done everything the right way. We have great kids. We have a great culture – all the support we’ve had and the people who truly know and understand. Tennessee is a special place and a great place. It’s bonded by great players."
Tennessee is facing a Title IX lawsuit in which six women allege members of the football and men’s basketball teams committed sexual assaults on them. In one case, former Tennessee football player Drae Bowles, according to the lawsuit, helped a woman he found in a parking lot following an assault in November 2014.
Bowles called 911 to aid the woman, who alleged Tennessee players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams sexually assaulted her.
But a day after Bowles assisted the woman, the lawsuit alleges Tennessee teammate Curt Maggitt assaulted Bowles by punching him in the mouth in retaliation. Bowles was later confronted by Tennessee players Geraldo Orta and Marlin Lane, who needed to be separated from him.
On top of that, Jones is alleged to have called Bowles a "traitor" during a meeting for assisting the woman, to which Bowles then "broke down and cried." Jones denied calling Bowles a traitor on Thursday in a written statement.
"The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false," Jones’ statement read. "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."
Bowles has since transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga following the incident. Both Johnson and Williams were charged with aggravated rape and have pleaded not guilty.
Jones maintained confidence on Friday that his program will ultimately be cleared of any wrongdoing at the administrative level.
In the meantime, as it pertains to the day-to-day duties of his job, Jones acknowledged Tennessee is taking attacks on the recruiting trail given the magnitude of the accusations.
"Our recruits know us. Their families know us," Jones said. "It’s getting them on campus, getting the as many times they possibly can and really see the great environment we have – the support structure that we have and the great people that are at Tennessee. It’s just getting them to campus. We’ve already forged a lot of relationships. They understand what we’re all about."