UPDATE: Tennessee head coaches defend UT culture
Tennessee faces a Title IX lawsuit that alleges the school has created a culture that permits bad behavior by male athletes and protects them when they commit crimes.
UPDATE: Every varsity head coach at the University of Tennessee gathered together Tuesday morning to defend the culture at the university.
UT faces a Title IX lawsuit that alleges the school has created a culture that permits bad behavior by male athletes and protects them when they commit crimes.
Men's head basketball coach Rick Barnes said the group wanted to stand together to address the bad publicity, because they all love UT, the administration, and especially the students. They don't want the negative stereotypes affecting those students.
All of the coaches spoke up, saying the atmosphere now is better than it's ever been.
Karen Weekly, who's coached softball at UT for more than a decade, says they have better facilities and resources now than ever. She says female athletes in particular have better access now to all of the resources the university has to offer. She says the coaches all support each other and share the facilities.
Does the negative publicity have an impact on recruiting? Several of the coaches said it had not had an impact because they focus on relationship building.
Holly Warlick, head coach of women's basketball, did say they've had to address it because they treat each recruit as they would a daughter. They want the girls to feel safe on campus, and work to teach them about personal responsibility and safety measures.
"If I had a daughter I wouldn't hesitate to have her come on campus," said Warlick.
Weekly echoed that, saying "I don't think it's any different than what any of you would tell your daughter about making the right choices."
They work to educate the male athletes to make good choices as well, said baseball coach Dave Serrano.
Football coach Butch Jones said rival teams are using the lawsuit and negative publicity against UT in recruiting.
The coaches were united in their message that women and female athletes are well-supported on campus.
"To think that this university is treating women unfairly is totally untrue," said Warlick.
The coaches also said it wasn't just them that were frustrated with his negative perception. It's also the student-athletes.
"We have good people. They are embarrassed by it. Upset about it," said Jones.
Jones said he takes the bad stereotyping personally. He knows they've had some individuals make bad decisions, and they want to work with them to learn from that. But he doesn't like the perception that one person's actions reflect on all of them.
But despite the protests, Jones reiterated several times that they acknowledge and feel for the alleged victims.
"I don't want to diminish or want you to think we don't feel for the alleged victims. That hits our souls," he said.
"Our hearts, our prayers go out to the alleged victims. We all feel for them. We are constantly trying to educate our players."
Coaches that took part in the Tuesday press conference are Beth Alford-Sullivan (track & field/cross country), Rick Barnes (men's basketball), Lisa Glenn (rowing), Butch Jones (football), Jim Kelson (men's golf), Matt Kredich (swimming & diving), Dave Parrington (diving), Mike Patrick (women's tennis), Rob Patrick (volleyball), Judi Pavón (women's golf), Brian Pensky (soccer), Dave Serrano (baseball), Holly Warlick (women's basketball), Ralph and Karen Weekly (softball) and Sam Winterbotham (men's tennis).
Jones spoke on Saturday to the media and defended the culture in the athletic department.
"When you just look at the academic excellence, the graduation rates, the community service, winning on the field, winning off the field, there's no culture problem," he said.
This story originally appeared on WBIR.com