Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and Mizzou Director of Athletics Mike Alden spoke to media Friday, following a report by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that came out Thursday. The report details an alleged rape committed by former Mizzou running back Derrick Washington. According to ESPN, MU failed to follow Title IX procedure by never conducting its own investigation into the incident, independent of law enforcement.
Questions from media are paraphrased.
Alden: Well good afternoon everyone. My name is Mike Alden, and I know the majority of people in here, but for those who don’t [know who I am], I’m the Director of Athletics here at the University of Missouri and [next to me is] Coach Gary Pinkel.
We appreciate everyone getting together on short notice. We understand that we put that notice out at around 12:00 today, so those that were able to get together with us today, we appreciate that. We’re here to be able to answer questions that you may have relative to recent media reports. We’re also certainly very appreciative of Dr. (R. Bowen) Loftin, his leadership. I know he had an opportunity to visit with everyone yesterday afternoon and talk with you about questions you may have at that time. We wanted to certainly have him speak on behalf of the university, and then to be able to follow that with Coach Pinkel and myself today. So we’re here to answer questions that you may have. I know (football spokesman) Chad (Moller) has talked about the process for going through things.
Again, if you could just identify yourself initially, that would be helpful so that we know as we’re going through. I know we’re going to try and limit our timeframe [to] about 20 minutes, but we certainly want to make sure that we’re availing ourselves to answer the questions you may have. So with that introduction, I’ll go ahead and open it up to the floor to whatever questions may be there.
When were you made aware of the 2008 rape allegation against Washington?
Alden: So the 2008 allegations that David is referring to, we were aware of those allegations at that time. In 2008, we were made aware of those allegations. Upon hearing those, I would, as I normally do, inform the people that I usually inform — Chancellor (Brady) Deaton at that time, Chris Koukola who would be our Public Affairs Director on campus, and a few folks as well — and discuss it obviously. Coach Pinkel was aware of that as well too. So we were aware of allegations back in 2008 at that time.
What sort of steps did take once you were made aware of the allegations?
Pinkel: Well what happened is, like we generally handle any situation from a disciplinary standpoint, obviously the police were involved with this — found out that Friday morning; that was six years ago — that Derrick (Washington) had met with the police.
They talked and 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 — that’s the role; that we do, that’s how we handle things — when we found out that they had not pressed any charges. I make all decisions based on the information that I get. I can’t go and call the victim up. I can’t legally do that and you 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 — and if they decide that they’re not going to press charges, then I’m not going to remove a player from the team for that. I won’t do that, it’s not consistent with how I’ve handled any situation I’ve been in before. So that’s what happened.
Were you aware that you were supposed to report that to a Title IX investigator when there is an allegation?
Alden: You know, today, I am aware of all that. I think the majority of us on our campus are aware of that. With a number of efforts that have taken place with (UM) President (Tim) Wolfe, Dr. Loftin and the leadership that they’ve displayed, there are 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 kinds of procedures and how they took place on campus.
Did you think you had followed procedure at the time?
Alden: To my knowledge, for me, with MUPD being involved and other people that I’d informed, I certainly felt that we were reporting it the way that we would report things. So I don’t have an answer to that part of the question, Joe.
So how would you handle that differently today? What has changed since then?
Alden: Well I think, certainly, there’s been many things that have changed, particularly on our campus with regards to knowledge of reporting and knowledge of what needs to take place at an appropriate time. So I think today, what you would do in a situation like that, certainly people realize that you need to have that reported immediately to the Title IX coordinator on 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 that you would know that there are, generally speaking, student conduct policies that go through, in regards to if there’s any allegations for students whatever they may be. Those would be referred to Cathy Scroggs and people in that area, so those types of things today are much better known today than they would have been back in 2008.
When were you made aware of the allegation that soccer coach Bryan Blitz told one of his players that bringing assault charges against Washington could result in her scholarship being rescinded?
Alden: So the first I learned of that was actually in February of 2014. So we were aware that our former soccer player was arrested, along with another woman, back in 2010. Back in May of 2010, we were aware that that arrest had taken place, for a fight downtown, I believe. But as far as the accusations, or allegations, that were in the 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 through that sunshine request, it uncovered that police report with that statement that was in that report.
What was your reaction to this?
Alden: Well my first reaction was that I was very surprised. My 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 that I would call Dr. Loftin, let him know what we had determined, what we had found in that. And certainly we wanted to make sure that we reviewed that. To make sure that the accuracy of that was, what the background of that was, or whatever that may be. So, and you may be aware because I know Dr. Loftin talked about that yesterday, is there was a review that was done on that, with regards to I believe 23 people that had been reviewed. That review was conducted outside of the university. So the story that went along with that was just not substantiated through that review.
Was there a policy back then that if you weren't arrested or charged with a crime, you wouldn't be kicked off the team?
Alden: There was not a policy that referred to that. There was a policy that referred to 2008 that if you were arrested, you were immediately suspended. Could be for five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks, it didn’t matter. Whether you were arrested for a misdemeanor or whatever would take place, that’s a policy that we had in place at that time.
So that was Pinkel-specific policy?
Pinkel: Well again, it’s based on information. I have to have information to make decisions, and “He said, she said,” unless I have some other information, that’s what I go with. Again, if the police investigate — and after they investigate — they do a lot more than I can do. So certainly I look at that, and if they don’t charge him, how am I supposed to (dismiss the player), unless there’s other circumstances, other things that I know about? But that’s how I’ve always done it; very consistent. I think we run a very structured program. I think that we do the right thing.
That’s the most important thing that we do, we try and do the right thing in every decision that we make. I think now, now in place with a Title IX on campus, is exceptionally good for the University of Missouri. And when something like this happens, now all of a sudden it goes to them right now too. So regardless, you certainly have the police that are investigating, but now you have Title IX. They’re involved, they’re investigating. So that’s more information that you can get. I just everything I do with the information that 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.
Did you talk to Washington after the alleged 2008 incident?
Alden: I always talk to every player. Always. And I talked to him right away. And he certainly denied it. And then, again, I go back to the (police) report. They study, they do what they do, they’re professionals at it, and that certainly helped me make the decision one way or the other about what I should do.
Mizzou dismissed Dorial Green-Beckham without being charged? How do you evaluate a situation like that?
Pinkel: I get all the information, and when I get all the information — everything — and sometimes, I don’t have anything but the police investigating. If they don’t have charges, I also look if there’s anything also that I have. I have other information, quite honestly that I had knew, that would help me make a decision. The decision was that I had to remove him. And that’s confidential where I got that and how I got it. I could’ve thrown it out, I didn’t. Because I have to do what’s right. I got that information, regardless of what the police did, I did the right thing. And that’s what I had to do. Sometimes you have the information, sometimes you don’t.
Alden: I’ll add just a little bit. I think you always have to look at situations that are always unique. There are unique situations in every type of issue like this that we may be dealing with in college athletics or in anywhere, and so I think that those two situations are pretty different. So there’s one where you may have a pattern, know of a pattern that had taken place. Another where there is the first allegation that you have received. So those kinds of things weigh into it. So I think, if I may coach, while (Pinkel) tries to gather all the information he can, to recognize if there’s a pattern of behavior too.
With Green-Beckham and former Mizzou basketball player Mike Dixon, there was a sense they had to go so it wouldn’t happen again. Since it did happen again with Washington, did that shape future policy in dealing with Green-Beckham and Dixon?
Alden: Well, first let me say that the way that those types of issues unfold, all of them are unique. All of them are unbelievably challenging because each situation is going to have various circumstances that are unique to that situation. So when you go through those, do those issues help you shape your opinion of other issues that come up? Absolutely. No different than us learning as we’ve gone through about all the improvements that we need to make about Title IX reporting, student conduct reporting, all these types of situations that President Wolfe, Dr. Loftin and I are trying to do at Mizzou. So you take those situations, and obviously you’re trying to learn from those. So that’s what we’ve tried to do in each of those. So for us, I think it’s made us a stronger athletic program. I think it’s made us more knowledgeable about the things that we all need to do, and I think it’s hopefully made us an even stronger partner for all we’re trying to do at Mizzou.
The 2008 victim's ex-boyfriend —a former Missouri football player — suggested she could sign a contract of silence with the coaching staff in return for a scholarship. Is there any truth to that?
Pinkel: I have no idea where he got that. I know nothing about that.
Have there been new programs implemented for student-athletes to avoid these situations in the future?
Pinkel: There’s a lot of things that we’re doing. One thing we talked about doing is any player that had any kind of issue at all — sexual assault, anything that even is accused of, whether he’s charged or not — would do counseling right away. I’ve always talked about it a lot with our football team. We have coach Ford who always handles that in August with our team. He goes very specific into rape, and “no is no,” and so on, so forth. During the season, often my team meetings on Thursday talk about different aspects of assault and being respectful to women. We have a “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. So in our society, sexual harassment is awful. It’s something we have to do the best we can to help these girls. And I got two daughters and four granddaughters. So I think Title IX being on campus is great. Some of the things that the Chancellor and the President have done. But it’s a real ugly part of our society right now and we have to do everything we can to fix it.
What can the Mizzou athletic department do to help when it comes to Title IX issues?
Alden: Well first of all, one incident is too many. One of any incident is too many. And from an athletic program standpoint, we have to be constantly 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 certain situations?”, so that’s something that we constantly strive for and work on all the time. And that’s a requirement of us, it’s a requirement of us, and it’s something we have to focus on. It’s who we are, and it’s something we focus on every day.
Coach Pinkel, how did the 2008 incident involving Washington impact your handling of his sexual assault incident in 2010?
Pinkel: When I heard about this, I had him in my office. And quite honestly, I said to him — and you have to understand, there’s nothing in Derrick’s background, nothing that would invite us to think that there were issues that he had in anyway — but when that happened to him I said to him, “This is serious.” And I said, “you might be dismissed from the program. The police are investigating this. But we got problems here.” And what we did was we just followed up as we got reports, Mike was aware of it, and the Chancellor were just getting reports from the office as much as we could and again, I need information. And actually what happened on that was Mike and I were meeting often about it and right in the middle somewhere, the middle of August there, there was a point where we got the feeling that finally there was a greater than 50-percent chance that they were going to arrest him. So what they were saying that he would possibly be arrested at the very end of August or the very end of September. And I remember Mike and I met on that and we were talking about it and I just told Mike that “There’s no way in the world that, knowing he is very likely going to be arrested in the middle of September, can we play the first game with him. We can’t do it.” And I had enough information so that we would make that decision, and that’s what we did. We suspended him prior to (the season). And knowing (what we did), we couldn’t play two games with him in September. It’s not the right thing to do. So we suspended him, later on he was obviously removed from the program.
Are you comfortable with how your staff handled the situation in 2008?
Pinkel: Certainly you’re always trying to make yourself better. That’s what we do as coaches, as players, we try to make ourselves better. Our campus is better right now. The reason Title IX is significant to me is because there’s another source that I have to make decisions. Like I said I get counseling instantly for anyone that was involved, even though they were not charged, but as much information I can get so I can make the right decision and do what I need, and that’s why I think the Title IX aspect, that part of it, I think is really going to help these young ladies.
Alden: And Gabe obviously I know, we know, that mistakes were made in the past. We understand that. And with that, it’s incumbent upon all of us to learn from those mistakes. How do we fix those, how to we analyze those and how do we improve? And I’m not talking just as an athletic program. I’m talking as a university.
ESPN noted in its report that, as part of its FOIA request for the investigation, Coach Pinkel had no emails during the 11-day period of requested information. What kind of communication does he engage in with staff and department during these incidents?
Pinkel: If you ask any of my friends, I don’t email a whole lot. Hardly at all. So I have no idea. They got what they have, I do the right thing. But I’m not a big email guy.
Chancellor Loftin said yesterday to media that the conversation between the soccer player and coach did happen, but that they player misconstrued the coach’s intentions. Are you saying the conversation was unsubstantiated, or just the allegation that she might lose her scholarship if she pressed charges?
Alden: The outside review, as I said, did not substantiate that there was a situation where scholarship was going to be in jeopardy based upon what had taken place. And for our former soccer player, we know that her 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. So what we do know in that review though was that it wasn’t able to substantiate that.
Why did you decline to comment to ESPN for the investigation?
Alden: I do believe that as broad as the sunshine request had been, as broad as the issues were, that it was impacting and looking at not only intercollegiate athletics, but was looking at a university, a system, whatever that may be, we just felt as an institution, and as a team of people — that would be our communications team — that it would be more appropriate for us to decline comment.
Coach Pinkel, when is the last time you spoke to Washington?
Pinkel: I don’t know. I can’t remember when. I don’t think I’ve spoken to him since he left.