Tennessee has whiffed on its attempt to get a Title IX and sexual assault lawsuit levied against the school dismissed.
A federal judge will allow “most” of the lawsuit to proceed, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Solomon. Seven of the eight plaintiffs — the statute of limitations has expired for one plaintiff — will be allowed to seek deliberate indifference claims against the university.
Solomon also reported that Tennessee’s attorneys unsuccessfully tried to argue that the lawsuit could be a Title IV violation — which prohibits racial discrimination — because the football and basketball teams were majority African-American.
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.
In March, the attorneys for Tennessee attempted to have references about an alleged sexual assault involving former star quarterback Peyton Manning removed from the Title IX lawsuit, but again a judge decided in the plaintiffs’ favor, ruling that the paragraph about the Manning incident was relevant to the case.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs name Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart and football coach Butch Jones among those who were “personally aware” of previous sexual assaults and rapes committed by football players, but protected the interest of the football team rather than the victims of the crimes.
Jones deflected questions about the lawsuit ahead of the team’s spring practices in March, but Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek responded to the allegations in April via a mass email sent to Vols students and faculty.
“While I cannot specifically address the allegations in the lawsuit, I can say that any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true,” Cheek wrote. “To claim that we have allowed a culture to exist contrary to our institutional commitment to providing a safe environment for our students or that we do not support those who report sexual assault is just false.”