Several former and current Auburn softball players and some parents met repeatedly with University administrators in the spring and summer in an attempt to get relief from what they characterized as deliberate physical and mental abuse and inappropriate relationships between coaches and players.
The players and parents, including former walk-on relief pitcher Alexa Nemeth, met with administrators and laid out their concerns, only to receive responses that ranged from apathetic to “dismissive” and even threatening, Nemeth told The Plainsman in an exclusive interview.
“How the administration handled it is probably the worst part because if they were doing their job in the first place, really making sure their departments were being run by the Auburn Creed, these problems would not have to be faced by 18- to 23-year-old girls,” said Nemeth, in her only sit-down interview since ESPN first detailed her accusations.
Auburn Athletics officials were made aware of accusations against then-head coach Clint Myers and his son, former associate head coach Corey Myers, at least as early as September 2016, when several team members filed anonymous ethics complaints against the younger Myers.
Those accusations and a subsequent investigation launched by the University accelerated when Nemeth filed a Title IX discrimination complaint with a University Title IX coordinator, Kelley Taylor, on May 31, which claimed that Clint Myers “knowingly let his son Corey Myers have relations and pursue relations” with at least three different members of the team.
In meetings with administrators since then, ranging from executive associate athletic director Meredith Jenkins to a sit-down with athletic director Jay Jacobs, Nemeth felt ignored. Jacobs was aware of the complaint but was almost totally “absent” after Nemeth went to him for help May 8, she said.
Since that first meeting, he has refused to meet with her again, Nemeth said.
Several meetings with Jenkins — who is also the senior women’s administrator and a deputy Title IX coordinator — were no better, Nemeth said. Nemeth met with Jenkins on May 8, too, but since then their few interactions were rude and dismissive, as Nemeth characterized them.
Auburn’s softball program is now undergoing a comprehensive review as part of the lingering Title IX investigation into the alleged physical abuse, mental abuse and inappropriate sexual relationships.
In a statement issued to The Plainsman Tuesday, the University said the investigation has mostly concluded and “appropriate actions were taken” but officials are still deciding if “any unresolved issues remain.”
Efforts to reach the Myers, Jacobs and Jenkins for comment have been unsuccessful.
On Tuesday, Auburn President Steven Leath told ESPN that the University has hired Lightfoot, Franklin & White, a Birmingham-based high powered law firm, as outside counsel to get a third-party opinion on the allegations.
The news of the complaint came just days after Clint Myers abruptly retired, effective immediately. The quick end to his four-year career at Auburn and more than 40 years coaching was a welcome development for Nemeth.
“I do not think that any man who turns a blind eye to sexual relations or anyone who is okay with mentally harassing anyone, especially young women, should be in a position of authority to do so,” Nemeth said.
Some reports suggested that Clint Myers had been offered a three-year contract extension until 2023.
The Athletics Department confirmed to The Plainsman Tuesday that he had not been given an extension.
The complaint, which has been obtained by The Plainsman, not only referred to Corey Myers’ relationships with several players, it also laid out a pattern of rampant mistreatment of players by their coaches, including physical punishment, harassment and mental abuse that “pushed players to the brink,” caused many players to leave the program and “crossed the line of acceptable coaching behavior.”
“Everyone that has left, for the most part, has been because of the coaching staff and the decisions that they made,” Nemeth said.
Some players were forced to return to practice just days after surgery before being appropriately released by a physician, according to the complaint; others were directed to use untreated hot and cold tubs that caused several players to develop pus-filled bumps the size of spider bites that later required medical treatment.
On top of alleging the coaches prided themselves on “making girls cry,” the complaint also highlights a culture of secrecy and punishment within the softball program that prevented other players from coming forward with similar complaints for fear of being ostracized.
“We know that there are many student-athletes that are fearful of coming forward because they believe they may lose their scholarship, place on the team or be retaliated against by the coaching staff,” Nemeth’s attorney, Martin Greenberg, wrote in the complaint.
Then-President Jay Gogue was more receptive of the complaints during a meeting on May 30 with Nemeth, her father and senior associate athletic director Bernard Hill, who was sent as a representative from the Athletics Department. Nemeth said she “at least felt heard” but their concerns were directed back to the Athletics Department, where nothing was done about it.
Email exchanges provided to The Plainsman show Nemeth has set up meetings with Gogue, Jenkins and Jacobs.
Over the summer when Leath’s tenure began as president, Nemeth and her family began corresponding with him, too, and they believe that, thus far, he has been more proactive. But when Nemeth attempted to meet with him, a University lawyer shut it down, she said.
Nemeth said the University’s Title IX coordinator, Kelley Taylor, was more willing to listen and even seemed to be helping, but she was never told about or was excluded from several interactions with the team about the alleged abuse and harassment.
The concerns within the softball program rose to a fever pitch on the night of March 30 ahead of a road series that weekend against Georgia, when Jenkins “quarantined” the softball team for more than three hours over the allegations and talks that were making waves through the softball team, according to the complaint and the interview with Nemeth.
Some players were refusing to board the bus to the road series after discovering what they said was proof of misconduct.
The team was informed that Corey Myers would be resigning that day. In the press release from the Athletics Department that night, the younger Myers cited prioritizing his family as the main reason for stepping down from his position. He had previously taken a leave of absence in the fall, and, according to University records, was making over $100,000 a year by that point.
During the “quarantine” in the team room, neither Jenkins nor the head coach took the players’ concerns seriously, Nemeth said. Instead, Jenkins began threatening the players with possible arrest for illegally obtaining copies of text messages that were proof of an inappropriate relationship between Corey Myers and a member of the softball team.
Several members of the team broke down into tears, Nemeth said, and felt so scared that they deleted the picture of the text messages, which might not have been admissible in court but could have been used in Title IX hearings at the University where generally is no determination of legality of evidence.
“She (Jenkins) made all of us feel extremely bad about what happened even if we weren’t involved,” Nemeth said. “She almost made it out to be our problem that this happened and not the adults in charge.”
On top of the relationships Corey Myers was having with some members of the team, other players felt pressured to have “relations” with Corey Myers in order to get practice and playing time, the complaint alleges.
Nemeth, a former Auburn High School MVP who was invited to walk on in the summer by Corey Myers after attending a camp where he was coaching, said she was never sexually harassed by Corey Myers.
But when he left in the spring, nearly all of the coaches stopped talking to her and she still doesn’t know her status on the team. Clint Myers told her in May that she did not have a spot on the team this year.
She was told recently that she would need to try out again for the team even after being retroactively redshirted in July. She was removed from the team roster in early July.
Nemeth didn’t say if she would like to see more leadership changes in the Athletics Department, but said she would like the University to provide special mental-health and sexual-harassment counseling for the players on the team to “repair some of the bridges that have been burned.”
“I would like the outcome that would benefit all student athletes because, to me, it’s just very sad,” Nemeth said.
When Clint Myers retired on Aug. 23, Jacobs issued a glowing statement about him and his winning record.
“The foundation for ongoing success is here because of Coach Myers’ love of Auburn and his desire to see this program reach a level of success that it had never seen before,” Jacobs said at the time in a statement.