Feb 29, 2016 02:11 PM EST
In his first public comments since being accused of condemning a player who tried to help a female who accused a teammate of sexually assaulting her, University of Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones defended his program and its culture.
In a recent filing for a Title IX lawsuit against UT for creating a "hostile sexual" environment unfair to women, the plaintiffs alleged Jones told Drae Bowles he "betrayed the team." Speaking with The Macon Telegraph, Jones again defended the team's much-maligned culture.
"Stay the course," Jones said. "You know you do things right. We've done everything the right way. We have great kids. We have a great culture - all the support we've had and the people who truly know and understand. Tennessee is a special place and a great place. It's bonded by great players."
According to the lawsuit, Bowles called 911 to assist a woman who said she was sexually assaulted by two of his teammates, A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. Just a day later, another UT football player named Curt Maggitt allegedly assaulted Bowles in retaliation before being confronted by two other teammates.
In addition to his comments in The Telegraph, Jones also released a statement formally denying he ever condemned a player for assisting another student.
"The assertion that I ever attempted to belittle or demean a young man for taking action to help another person is absolutely false," read the statement. "To the contrary, I did all I could to assist the former student in question. During the course of the judicial process, campus officials, as well as the young man's own words, will clearly establish that I have done nothing wrong. I will fight all of these false attacks on my character, and I know that once this process has been completed, my reputation will be affirmed."
Bowles wound up transferring to UT-Chattanooga while Johnson and Williams are awaiting trial for charges of aggravated rape. UT's administration and athletic department officials have publicly defended Jones' program and the school as a whole.
Jones told The Telegraph he is confident his program will eventually be cleared.
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