Butch Jones: No 'relief' in lawsuit settlement

Butch Jones: No 'relief' in lawsuit settlement

July 12th, 2016 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones watches his players warm up for an NCAA college football game against Bowling Green Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Photo by Mark Humphrey

HOOVER, Ala. -- Tennessee closed the chapter on one of its football program's top offseason storylines by settling the Title IX lawsuit against the university earlier this month.

Butch Jones isn't putting it in the past, however.

The fourth-year head coach of the Volunteers disputed the notion of the nearly $2.5 million settlement of the suit, in which eight women claimed Tennessee violated federal laws and created a "hostile sexual environment" in its handling of sexual assault cases against athletes and particularly football players, coming as a relief to him and his football program.

"I don't view it as a relief," Jones said early Tuesday afternoon shortly after Tennessee's contingent arrived for their turn at SEC media days.

"I don't view it as (it's) put behind us. I think that's a serious matter, a serious issue that every college, every university and every college campus faces, and it's also in society as well. We'll continue to have that as a learning experience for our football program."

The lawsuit generated a number of negative headlines when it was filed in February. The most damaging one perhaps was the allegation that Jones told wide receiver Drae Bowles he'd "betrayed the team" for helping a woman who accused two Vols of rape.

The criminal trials of A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams remain on hold.

Tennessee elected to settle the lawsuit in part to avoid ballooning legal costs and did not admit guilt.

Jones indicated the settlement won't change how the Vols approach the topic of sexual and domestic assault. During his tenure the Vols have welcomed multiple speakers on the subject, particularly during the offseason. Jones has used that trend to defend his program this offseason.

"We'll continue our year-round education with our "Fourth-and-1 Wednesdays,'" Jones said. "We've been very, very proactive with that and we'll continue to be that. I think we've set the bar for all of college football with our speakers in those programs.

"That's something that we take very seriously. I don't ever look at it as that being behind us or in the rear-view mirror. We'll always points toward that as a learning opportunity."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.