A list of local Knoxville attorneys prepared for Tennessee student-athletes by the program has raised questions amid an ongoing sexual assault lawsuit against the school.
Through a public records request, the list of attorneys, obtained by The Tennessean’s Anita Wadhwani, contains four attorneys who have represented Tennessee football players in previous assault cases.
The six attorneys on the list provided to The Tennessean are all graduates of the University of Tennessee College of Law and several have ties to the athletics department, including a Tennessee booster and former members of the athletics board. Two of the attorneys, Don Bosch and Christopher Coffey, are listed as potential witnesses in the sexual assault suit against the school, according to the report.
Tennessee’s attorneys were denied in a motion to dismiss the ongoing sexual assault case on Tuesday. A federal judge ruled that seven of the eight plaintiffs could seek deliberate indifference claims against Tennessee.
The list of attorneys was prepared specifically for student-athletes “after an education discussion on decision making,” Ryan Robinson, UT’s senior associate athletics director for communications, said according to The Tennessean report. … “As far as we can tell, the list was provided to only one student-athlete.”
If the list was only provided to specific Tennessee sports programs, it may violate Title IX laws, but it is unclear if any players broke NCAA rules.
“The basic rule that applies here whenever a university provides any kind of benefit or service to a student athlete is what’s called the NCAA extra benefits rule,” Stu Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney and expert in NCAA and university representation matters, told The Tennessean. “When you get into issues of what kind of information or assistance a school can give that does not have an innate or identifiable monetary value, you are in somewhat of a gray area.”
The original lawsuit, which was filed in February, claims that the university “enabled an environment of bad behavior and used a disciplinary system that favored the players,” citing more than a dozen incidents, including ones that hadn’t been previously reported. Among the incidents are allegations of underage drinking, sexual harassment, assault, armed robbery and sexual assaults, including incidents that went beyond the eight women filing suit.
“We don’t engage in putting them (athletes) in touch with anybody,” Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart said, according to the report. “We may point to, just like you would in a phone book or list, that’s all.”