KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart stood by his embattled football coach Thursday and said his department doesn't interfere with the school's disciplinary process, two weeks after a lawsuit alleged that UT mishandles sexual assault complaints against athletes.
"I trust Butch Jones implicitly," Hart said. "I know who he is. I know what his work ethic is. I know what he's meant to this university, well beyond the department of athletics, and I know how he's represented the university."
Jones was at the center of an amended complaint filed Wednesday. The complaint stated former Vols football player Drae Bowles assisted a woman who said she had been raped by two other players and that later he was attacked by teammates and told by Jones he had "betrayed the team."
The coach has said he only tried to assist Bowles.
Hart said he has tremendous empathy and sympathy for alleged victims and all victims of sexual assault.
"It is simply an unacceptable act," he said, adding that university chancellor Jimmy Cheek has made this his top priority. "This has to gain the attention of everyone."
Hart said UT athletes who have allegedly committed a crime don't get treated any differently than general students facing the same circumstances.
"We are not the judge and jury," Hart said. "We have to remember that each person is entitled to due process. … We don't engage in the investigations that take place."
The lawsuit, which was filed Feb. 9 in Nashville, states Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a "hostile sexual environment" through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes. It also states the school interfered with the disciplinary process to favor male athletes. The suit now includes eight unidentified women as plaintiffs.
According to the suit, Tim Rogers stepped down as UT's vice chancellor in 2013 "in protest over the violation of Title IX and the UT administration's and athletic department's deliberate indifference to the clear and present danger of sexual assaults by UT athletes." The amended complaint submitted Wednesday included a signed declaration from Rogers confirming the accuracy of statements made about him.
PARALYZED WR GETTING NEW HOME: Devon Gales, who played defensive back and special teams for Southern when he suffered a paralyzing neck injury during a September game at Georgia, is returning to his home in Baton Rouge, La., with the promise his family soon will have a new home designed to accommodate his needs. The player's parents wiped away tears when it was announced funds are being raised for a new home accessible to his wheelchair. The news conference in Athens, Ga., was designed to give the family a chance to say thank you to the community one day after Gales was released from the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta.
GATOR HIRE: Florida hired longtime college and NFL assistant Bret Ingalls as an offensive quality control assistant. Ingalls, 55, spent the past seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Saints.