As you may be aware, there has been a lot of important information in the news about our softball program recently. I take it seriously and I want you to know what took place. It is concerning that recent reporting about our softball program has incorrectly suggested that Auburn University and Auburn Athletics either didn’t know about or didn’t act on matters of concern in an expeditious manner. I can tell you with certainty that we did and that we will always do what is right for our student-athletes.
First, a little context. Because of the importance of Title IX compliance and the structure and process Auburn has established, we in Athletics defer to those conducting any investigation following a complaint. We cannot, and will not, take action which could be disruptive to or attempt to influence that investigative and decision-making process.
With that said, last Fall we received an anonymous allegation about wrongdoing on the coaching staff. An investigation began and action was taken that ultimately led to changes with the coaching staff because of the factual findings of a fair and thorough investigation.
In support of this, let me make three key points:
1. Wrongdoing took place by the assistant coach on the softball team and that is why he is no longer part of the staff. Before a decision was announced regarding the head coach, he decided to retire.
2. Members of the team asked the athletics department to handle this discreetly. They are young women and I was determined to honor their request for privacy.
3. I made the decision to walk a line that involved making changes to the coaching staff while respecting the privacy of those who asked for it. It was not an easy line to walk and that’s why I said the things I said and handled it as I did. I’m an Athletics Director and I’m a father. I handled the coaches the way an AD should handle them and I handled the students the way I think a father would want it handled.
To me, this matter has always been about protecting and supporting student-athletes, young women who did not want their names in the news. Of course, there are also policies, procedures, processes and laws we must follow.
It’s important to remember that sometimes the length of an investigation is determined by the willingness of those with information to feel comfortable coming forward. We encouraged communication. In the end, we appreciate and applaud all who had the courage to speak up and share their concerns.
During this process, I answered a question about whether there was an investigation under way. I answered that question in a manner that was guarded to the point that made some people question the accuracy of my words. In retrospect, I could have been more forthcoming about the investigation. But, I wanted to live up to the promise I made to the students who asked for confidentiality. I erred on the side of maintaining my promise to these young women.
Taking action while maintaining confidentiality is not easy. But as always, I will be certain that the Auburn staff lives up to the high standards we expect and that the students who play for us know that the Athletics Department will honor their privacy requests and help them in every way we can.
As a member of the Auburn Family, you have a right to know what took place. Thank you for letting me share this information with you.
God Bless and War Eagle!
The Plainsman recently published an article with the first sit-down interview with Alexa Nemeth, the former Auburn softball player who filed a Title IX complaint against the University. The Athletics Department did not respond to requests for comment on the story before it went to print.