Idaho State University investigating student-athlete complaint, coach fired

CBS 2 File Photo

Idaho State University is investigating complaints received by a football player outlining unfair and targeted treatment by coaching staff. One football coach has since been fired.

Idaho State University received a written complaint on Nov. 14, 2018 from a current football player alleging inappropriate communication from a coach, a lack of playing time, an alleged assault by a coach during an away game, and the student-athlete being incorrectly informed about his eligibility status.

The University says they immediately launched a full inquiry on Nov. 15. after they received the complaint and are investigating each incident.

According to the university, the student-athlete’s complaint contained information about derogatory text messages with race and gender-based themes that were sent to players by an ISU football coach in late September and early October. This allegation was investigated, and the findings indicated wrongdoing by the coach.

The coach was immediately relieved of his duties and issued a non-renewal of his coaching contract on Nov. 26.

“When Idaho State University learned about the inappropriate text messages to players, we took immediate and swift action. Conduct of this nature is absolutely unacceptable,” Pauline Thiros, interim athletic director, said. "We aim to provide an environment based on the values of equity, inclusion, and respect for all people. We will not stand for actions that belittle or are disrespectful.”

Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee added, “That represents a culture we do not find acceptable in our programs and goes against everything our University supports.”

As part of his complaint, the student-athlete also alleged that he was hammer punched on his shoulder pads by a coach during halftime at the game against Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo, California.

“Idaho State University takes all allegations of physical assault extremely seriously,” Satterlee said. “The experience of our student-athletes is important to us. When our University receives a complaint, we will have the matter thoroughly investigated. Based on the investigation findings we will always take the right and appropriate action to ensure that we create an environment that is safe and supportive. Our students deserve that. We will continue to work through the investigative process with that outcome in mind.”

ISU says it's also continuing its investigation into the student-athlete being misinformed about his eligibility status.

According to ISU, the player was previously told by athletics staff that he had eligibility remaining. However, in November 2018, it was discovered that the ISU Department of Athletics did not appropriately handle the situation. The player was informed at that time he was a senior and his eligibility would be exhausted at the end of the season.

ISU said they acknowledge the Department of Athletics did not submit the proper eligibility documentation, and that the student was misinformed of his status at the start of the fall 2018 season. The University told the student-athlete that his scholarship will be honored through May 2020.

The reasons and facts behind the eligibility request not being properly processed more than a year ago are still under review by the University, and the investigation is ongoing.

“It’s apparent that our department failed to follow proper protocol regarding eligibility for the student-athlete, and we created a clear expectation for him that he would have an additional year,” Thiros said. “For that, we apologize and are doing all we can to pursue that year of eligibility for him now. Whatever the outcome, we will honor our scholarship commitment.”

When the University receives an internal complaint, an initial inquiry into the matter is conducted by an office independent of where the incident occurred.

A trained investigator is assigned to the case, and relevant parties and witnesses are interviewed. After conducting interviews and collecting all related information, a final report is compiled. Final findings and recommendations are provided to University leadership, which may include sanctions, disciplinary actions, or program improvements.

ISU aims to complete all investigations within 90 days.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, which is entirely independent of other campus units, including Idaho State Athletics. As part of the thorough and comprehensive inquiry, ISU investigators continue to interview witnesses.

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