Missouri athletics director Mike Alden and head football coach Gary Pinkel held a news conference Friday to address the ESPN “Outside the Lines” report that accuses the university of mishandling sexual assault allegations made against former running back Derrick Washington. Below is a full transcript of the press conference:
When were you first made aware of the 2008 allegations against Washington?
Alden: We were aware of those allegations at that time in 2008, we were made aware of those allegations. Certainly upon becoming aware of that, for me, normally I inform the people I need to inform, which would be Chancellor (Brady) Deaton at that time, Chris Koukola, who would be our public affairs person on campus (at the time) and a few other folks as well, discuss it. Coach Pinkel was aware of it as well, too.
What steps were taken?
Pinkel: Like we generally handle any situation from a disciplinary standpoint, obviously the police were involved with this. On that Friday morning, that was six years ago, Derrick met with the police, they talked with him, interviewed him, what have you. And then they released him and didn’t file any charges. Obviously, when we found out that he had met with the police, I called Mike right away, and Mike goes through the role (we have). That’s how we handle things. When we find out that they did not press any charges, I make all my decisions by the information I get. I can't go call the victim up, I can’t legally do that and wouldn’t do that. But it’s all about the information, and when the police get involved, then certainly they are investigators, they’re professionals, that’s what they do. If they decide that they’re not going to press charges, then I’m not gonna remove a player from the team for that, I wouldn't do that. It’s not consistent with how I’ve handled any situation I’ve been (in) here before.
Were you aware that you’re supposed to report to the Title IX coordinator when there is an allegation?
Alden: Today, I am aware of all of that. I think the majority of us on campus are aware of that with a number of the efforts that have taken place with President Wolfe, Dr. Loftin and the leadership they displayed. There’s many of us that are much more aware of reporting requirements here on our campus. But back in 2008, I was not aware of those types of procedures and how they took place on campus.
Did any of the people you reported to, including (former Chancellor) Brady Deaton, seem aware that that was supposed to be reported to the coordinator?
Alden: To my knowledge, for me, with MUPD being involved and other people that I informed, certainly I felt like we were reporting it the way we would normally report things, so I don't have an answer to that part of the question.
How would you have handled that differently today? What has changed since then?
Alden: Well, I think, certainly, there have been many things that have changed, particularly on our campus with regards to the knowledge of reporting and knowledge of what needs to take place at appropriate times. So I think today what you would do in a situation like that if you were to become aware of that, certainly people recognize that we need to have that reported immediately to the Title IX coordinator on our campus, who is Linda Bennett.
But there are other people besides us in athletics that would know that, there’s many people throughout campus that would know that. Also, you would know that there’s, generally speaking, student conduct policies that go through if there are any allegations toward students. Those would be referred to Cathy Scroggs and people in that area. So those types of things are much, much better known today than they would have been back in 2008.
On ESPN’s report of a soccer player’s scholarship being threatened by her coach:
Alden: The first I learned of that was actually in February of 2014. We were aware that our former soccer player was arrested, along with another woman in 2010, so back in May of 2010. We were aware that an arrest had taken place for a fight, I believe, downtown. But as far as the accusations or allegations that were in that police report, we were not made aware of that until February of 2014. And how we became aware of that was there was a pretty massive Sunshine request by ESPN, and throughout that Sunshine request, it uncovered that police report with that statement that was in that report.
And what was your reaction to that?
Alden: My first reaction was I was very surprised. The second reaction was I wanted to reach out to the soccer coach and make sure that he was aware of what I had just found out about. The third reaction was I would call Dr. (R. Bowen) Loftin and let him know what we had found in that. Certainly, we wanted to make sure that we reviewed that to see what the accuracy in that is, what the background of that was or whatever that may be. I know Dr. Loftin talked about it yesterday.
In a teleconference Thursday, Loftin clarified that soccer coach Bryan Blitz had explained to his player that the reason for her scholarship possibly being revoked had to do with her arrest in the incident.
Alden expanded on the matter:
Alden: The outside review did not substantiate that there was a situation where the scholarship was going to be in jeopardy, based upon what had taken place. And for our former soccer player, we know that her soccer scholarship was never in jeopardy, she was a post-eligible student athlete, we know that she finished her degree here at the University of Missouri on scholarship.
Was there a policy at the time that an arrest or charged crime would result in a particular action?
Alden: There was a policy that referred to that. There was a policy in 2008 that if you were arrested for anything, you would be immediately suspended. It could be for five minutes, could be five hours, five days, five weeks; it didn’t matter if you were arrested for a misdemeanor or whatever. That was the policy we had in place at that time.
Pinkel’s take on policy:
Pinkel: Again, it’s based on information. I have to have information to make decisions. He said, she said, unless I have some other information, that’s what I go with and again, if the police — they investigate, they do a lot more than I can do. Certainly, I look at that, and if they don’t charge him, how am I supposed to, unless there’s other circumstances or things I know, that’s happened before. But that’s how I’ve always done it. We’re very consistent. I think we run a very disciplined, structured program, and I think that we do the right thing, and that’s the most important thing we do. We try to do the right thing in every decision that we make. I think now with Title IX in place on campus, it’s exceptionally good for the University of Missouri, and when something like this happens now all of the sudden it goes to them right now, too. With Title IX, they’re involved and they’re investigating. That’s more information that you can get. I judge everything I do by the information I get. It’s got to be credible and it’s got to be such that it really applies to what we’re talking about.
In 2008, police questioned Washington. Did you have a conversation with him?
Pinkel: I always talk to a player, and I talked to him right away. He certainly denied it. Again, I go back to the reports. They study, they do what they do, they’re professionals at it. That certainly helps me make the decision one way or another, of what I should do what we do.
Asked about the program’s dismissal of Dorial Green-Beckham in the spring for allegations that didn’t lead to charges and about the evaluation process behind these decisions:
Pinkel: I get all the information, and when I get all the information, and I mean everything, sometimes I don’t have anything but what the police investigated. If they don’t have charges, I also look if there’s anything else I have. I had other information, quite honestly, that I knew that would help me make a decision, and the decision was that I had to remove him. It’s confidential where I got that and how I got that. I could have thrown it out, but I didn’t, because I have to do what’s right. Regardless of what the police did, I did the right thing. You’ve got to gather all the information. Sometimes you have some more, sometimes you don’t.
Alden: We have to always look at situations, they’re always unique. There’s unique situations in every type of issue like this we deal with in college athletics or anywhere. I think those two situations (Washington’s and Green-Beckham’s) are pretty different. ... I think it’s also important to recognize if there’s a pattern of behavior, too.
The way that those types of issues unfold, all of them are unique. All of them are unbelievably challenging, because each situation, you’re going to have various circumstances that are specific to those situations. When you go through those, do those help shape your thought process on any other issues that may come up, absolutely. No different than us learning as we go through all the improvements we make in regards to Title IX reporting, student conduct reporting, all these types of initiatives that President Wolfe and Dr. Loftin and all of us are trying to do at Mizzou. So you take those situations, and obviously you’re trying to learn from those. For us, I think it’s made us a stronger athletic program, it’s made us more knowledgeable of the things we need to do.
Asked about the 2008 police report received by ESPN in which a former Missouri football player is said to have told a victim that she could sign a contract of silence with the coaching staff and receive a scholarship:
Pinkel: I have no idea where he got that from.
What can be done to avoid these incidents?
Pinkel: I think there's a lot of things that we're doing. One thing we talked about doing is any player that (has) any kind of issue at all, sexual assault, anything he even is accused of whether he's charged or not, that we would do counseling right away. I think that's something we did. I've always talked about it a lot with our football team. We have coach (Cornell) Ford, he handles that every year in August with our team, he's very specific about rape and no is no, and so on and so forth. During the season, often, my team meetings on Thursday, we talk about different aspects of assault and being respectful to women. We have “men for men” on campus that started a few years ago where we get all the student athlete men and have classes, and that's often brought up. We bring in guest speakers sometimes.
In our society, sexual harassment is awful, it's something we have to do the best we can to help these girls. I think Title IX here on campus is great for the things the chancellor and the president have done. But it's a real ugly part of our society right now, and we've got to do everything we can to help fix it.
What can the athletics department do differently?
Alden: One incident is too many. We know that. Any incident is too many. And from an athletic program's standpoint, we have to constantly be educating, we have to constantly be reminding, we have to constantly be reinforcing the messages of our core values: What's appropriate, what's not appropriate, how do you report, how are you supposed to handle particular situations. So, that’s something that we constantly strive for and work on all the time. That's a requirement of us, that's an obligation of us, and it's important that we do that. It's part of who we are, and it's something we have to focus on every day.
Did knowledge of the 2008 incident impact how you disciplined Derrick in 2010?
Pinkel: (In 2010) when I heard about this, I had him in my office, and quite honestly, I said to him — now you've got to understand, there's nothing in Derrick's background, anything that would invite us to think that there would be issues that he had in any way — but when that happened, I said to him, two years ago, and now, I said, ‘This is serious.’ I said, ‘You might be dismissed from the program as police are investigating this. We've got problems here.’
And then, what we did, we just followed along. Obviously, Mike was aware and the chancellor, and we were just getting reports as often as we could, kind of where the investigation was going. Again, I need information. I need information. And actually what happened with that, Mike and I were meeting quite a bit about it, and right about the middle of somewhere — again, it was four years ago — in the middle of August there, there was a point where we got the feeling that there was a point where there was a greater than 50 percent chance that they were gonna arrest him.
So Mike and I were talking about this, what they're saying he could possibly be arrested at the very end of August or sometime in the middle of September. Mike and I met about that. And I just told Mike, there's no way in the world, knowing that he very likely is gonna get arrested in the middle of September, can we play the first game with him. We can't do it. I had enough information that we would make that decision. And that's what we did. We suspended him prior to (the season). Whether it was gonna be assault charges, or felony charges, we didn't know. That's the process that we went through. Knowing the possibility of him, in the middle of September, (having) played two games, we can't do that. It's not the right thing to do. So we suspended him, and later on he was removed, obviously, from the program.
Are you comfortable with everything you and your staff did? You feel like if something like this happened again, you would handle it in the same way?
Pinkel: Certainly, you’re always trying to make yourself better. That's my job, that's what I do, coaches, players, everybody, we try to make ourselves better. Our campus is better right now. The reason Title IX is significant to me is there's another source that I have to make decisions. Like I said, I get instant counseling for anybody that's involved even though they were not charged. But, as much information as I can get, so I can make the right decision and make the right thing, is what I need, and that's why I think the Title IX aspect, that part of it, is really gonna help this campus, help these young ladies.
Alden: Obviously, we know that mistakes were made in the past. We understand that. And for that, it's incumbent upon all of us to learn from those mistakes, how do we analyze those, how do we learn from those, how do we improve? And I'm not talking just as an athletic program, I'm talking about as a university.
On FOIA requests by ESPN not turning up any emails from him during time periods of each police report involving Washington being filed:
Pinkel: You can ask any of my friends: I don't email a whole lot, probably at all. So I have no idea. I'm not a big email guy.
Why decline comment in ESPN's report?
Alden: We just felt as an institution, really, and as a team of people (on) our communications team, that it would be more appropriate for us to decline comment.
When is the last time you spoke with Washington?
Pinkel: I can't remember. I don't think I've talked to him since he left.