MU investigates claim of harassment

Sunday, August 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The MU athletic department is investigating claims made in a national magazine by a former football recruiting volunteer who said coaches at MU ignored her complaints of sexual harassment by recruits. The September issue of Seventeen magazine, a national magazine directed toward teenage readers, includes an interview with an anonymous former member of Tiger Hostesses, a university-run campus group that welcomes football recruits. The woman, whose name is disguised as “Emily,” said in the article that, as a Tiger Hostess, she was sexually harassed by MU football recruits and that coaches ignored her complaints.

On Saturday, Chad Moller, director of media relations for the MU athletic department, said the department is aware of the article and had sent a letter to Seventeen publishers on Thursday asking for the identity of the woman in the interview. Moller said the claims were serious, and the department would investigate.

“Even though it is a pretty loose piece of journalism, we’re still looking into the claims,” he said.

The article describes various incidents in which the woman said she was propositioned, groped and asked by team members and fellow hostesses to take recruits to strip clubs and bars.

In the article, the woman alleges an incident in which an MU football player asked her to take him and a recruit to a “dark, empty parking lot” where they bought marijuana with money the players had been given to spend on the recruits.

According to the article, when she told coaches about her experiences, they laughed and joked with her about them. Names of recruits and coaches were not provided in the article.

“We’re looking internally, asking everyone associated with the program,” Moller said. “We’re making sure that there weren’t any incidents like that that were reported.”

In March, after launching a review of the Tiger Hostess program, the MU athletic department banned Tiger Hostesses from associating with recruits off campus.

Director of football operations Mark Alnutt, who was quoted in the magazine article, was unavailable for comment Saturday. Seventeen quotes Alnutt’s response to the woman’s experience as “College kids will be college kids.”

The article, “College Sports Sex Scandal,” compares the allegations with those of nine women at the University of Colorado who last winter came forward and accused CU football players and recruits of sexual assault.

Moller described Seventeen as being “pretty close to a tabloid magazine,” and said the article was not handled responsibly. However, he said he didn’t think any legal action would be taken by the department against the magazine.

Missourian reporter Graham Wood contributed to this report.

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