KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee football coach Butch Jones’ phone records show he had two conversations with former Volunteers receiver Drae Bowles the same day a lawsuit states that Bowles assisted a woman who said she was raped by two other players.
The records, obtained via a public records request, only detailed the time and length of the calls and didn’t indicate what was said.
A Title IX lawsuit filed against Tennessee last month states a woman called 911 from Bowles’ car to report a rape in the early-morning hours of Nov. 16, 2014. The report eventually led to charges against former Tennessee players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, who were indicted on February 2015. They have separate trial dates this summer.
The plaintiffs’ complaint states Bowles later was attacked by teammates and told by Jones that he had “betrayed the team.” The complaint also states that Jones later apologized.
Jones has denied doing anything wrong and has said he would “fight all of these false attacks on my character.”
The records show Bowles called Jones at 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 16, 2014, and they spoke for seven minutes, and that Jones called back at 9:46 p.m. and spoke to him for three minutes. The records also show Jones spoke to Bowles’ father, Dexter Bowles, for seven minutes at 8:03 p.m.
“Regarding the calls to Drae Bowles and his father, I care about Drae as a person and as a player and have frequent communications with players or their parents,” Jones said Wednesday in a statement. “I am very comfortable with everything Drae, Mr. Bowles, and I discussed, and I wish him nothing but the very best.
“My intent was to support Drae and make sure he was OK. There’s nothing more important to me than the ultimate success in the life of our students.”
Phone records also show that Jones had multiple conversations with Johnson, Knoxville police chief David Rausch, Tennessee linebacker Curt Maggitt and athletic director Dave Hart from the morning of Nov. 16, 2014, to the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2014, when the school announced that Johnson and Williams were suspended from all team-related activities.
Knoxville police identified Johnson and Williams as suspects in a rape investigation the following day.
“Anytime we have a disciplinary issue with a player, we have as many conversations as needed with players, parents, law enforcement, whomever until we can be sure that we are making the best decision possible,” Jones said in a statement. “These are decisions that can be life-changing for these individuals. After taking into account all the information we could gather in this case, we made the decision to suspend two student-athletes from the team immediately.”
Jones and Johnson exchanged six calls that lasted a total of 23 minutes on Nov. 16, 2014. Jones also had four calls with Maggitt lasting a total of 13 minutes that day. Jones and Rausch had four calls totaling 21 minutes on Nov. 16 and five more calls totaling 13 minutes on Nov. 17. Jones and Johnson’s uncle also spoke two times totaling nine minutes on Nov. 17.
Some calls were reported to last only one minute, which means they may have been no more than someone leaving a voice mail.
“When we investigate an alleged crime involving an athlete at UT, as a professional courtesy, our long-standing practice has been that we alert the head coach and staff,” Rausch said in a statement. “At no time is any information shared with the university that would hinder or jeopardize any investigation. The purpose of the notification is due to the scrutiny these events bring to allow appropriate time to prepare responses to the various interests.
“Our paramount concern at KPD is to the victims and their families and to assure them that we will utilize every resource available to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation. That is our commitment to all citizens that we serve.”
The lawsuit filed in Nashville by eight unidentified women states Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes.
According to an amended complaint filed last month, Bowles suffered a bloody lip when Maggitt punched him in the mouth on Nov. 16, 2014, and Bowles was confronted by teammates Geraldo Orta and Marlin Lane the following day. Maggitt’s lawyer, Jeff Hagood, has denied that his client ever punched Bowles.
Bowles transferred to Chattanooga after the 2014 season.