Tennessee AD Dave Hart defends culture, Butch Jones amid Title IX investigation

Feb 25, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers Vice Chancellor/Director of athletics Dave Hart speaks at the Brenda Lawson Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers Vice Chancellor/Director of athletics Dave Hart speaks at the Brenda Lawson Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart addressed the media on Thursday and defended Volunteers head coach Butch Jones amid a Title IX investigation.

Dave Hart met with the media on Thursday one day after two more plaintiffs added their names to a Title IX investigation that alleges the university created a hostile sexual environment. Also, a former player, Drae Bowles, said in an affidavit he was called a traitor by Butch Jones for helping an alleged victim of rape by teammates A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams.

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Jones issues a strong denial on Wednesday to the accusations he would belittle a player in that way and insisted his character would be affirmed once the process is complete and the head football coach received a strong endorsement from Hart on Thursday.

“I believe very, very strongly in what we’re doing here in the athletics program at the University of Tennessee and I trust Butch Jones implicitly,” Hart said. “I know who he is. I know his work ethic and I know what he’s meant to this university well beyond the department of athletics.”

The lawsuit also alleges student-athletes receive favorable treatment and aren’t held to the same standard as other students, which Hart also denied and says he’s proud of the culture.

“I am proud of the culture that we have here, but I also understand it is all of our responsibility to continue to address what is a national problem across America,” Hart said. “We should take a leadership role in trying to address it.”

“Our student-athletes are treated like any other member of the student body and that’s the way it should be,” he said.

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Culture is a subjective thing. A few football players don’t represent the entire football program or the university, but they do put a black cloud over the university, the football program and everyone associated with it because of these accusations.

Yes, they are accusations. The facts will come to light, but in the meantime, this is a time for action, education, awareness and change.

“Obviously, we’re concerned,” Hart said. “I think one is too many. We have 130 football players, and I have an opportunity on a regular basis to interact with them … We’ve got a lot of really good people, so I think one is too many and, again I have to say, that we’re not the judge and jury. We don’t get to engage in that. The courts will decide at the end of the day.”

The facts will come to light at the end of the day like Hart said during his press conference, but in the meantime, a subset of the rapid Tennessee football fan base will defend their program, coaches and administration even if it means dismissing one ugly allegation after another.

At what point will this group of fans remove their orange and white blinders and realize eight women, a former player, and a former vice chancellor are a part of the investigation and this is not just a coincidence or the media out to get Tennessee?

When did these eight alleged victims, Drae Bowles and former chancellor Tim Rogers have the time to get together to have their secret conspiracy meetings to figure out how to bring down Tennessee athletics?

That’s the thought process of this group of fans who have blind loyalty to the teams they cheer for. But why aren’t they standing up and voicing concern and outrage for the alleged actions that are taking place at their alma mater or the place they go to worship on Saturday’s in the fall?

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Hart made statements that the university has and will do more to help victims of sexual assault and to try to prevent these assaults from taking place in the first place. Changing the culture won’t happen overnight, but it’s never going to happen if some don’t want to admit a problem even exists in the first place.

The press conferences Tennessee had today and earlier this week when they paraded out the head coaches of all the teams on campus to boast about how great Tennessee and the culture is were nothing but lip service.

Here’s to hoping against hope that today was a significant step in Tennessee recognizing the problem on their campus and using all their resources to prevent the hostile sexual environment that’s been alleged and not just more spin control.