Another Day, Another UT Football Player Charged With A Sex Crime
It's been nothing but bad news of late for Tennessee, and a new arrest isn't helping
Yet another University of Tennessee football player was arrested on Tuesday, this time as part of a sting targeting adult males who solicit underage girls online, as the prominent SEC program and its players continue a string of legal woes that point to deep institutional issues.
Mackenzie Crowder, 23, a starting offensive lineman who finished his eligibility this fall, was booked in Florida on a felony for four counts of transmission of harmful material and one count of prohibited use of computer services for sharing illicit photos and arranging to meet someone he believed was a 14-year-old girl, according to a release on the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office website. He posted a $50,000 bond, according to jail records.
This follows a tumultuous year and a half in which two other former Tennessee players, A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, have been charged with rape. Additionally, a Title IX lawsuit was filed last week against the university by six women alleging that the school created a “hostile sexual environment” and showed “deliberate indifference” toward multiple sexual assaults committed by athletes. (Johnson and Williams have both pleaded not guilty and will stand trial this summer.)
Included in that suit was the allegation that several football players beat up a teammate who assisted the women who had accused Johnson and Williams of rape.
A university spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Vocativ, but school counsel released a statement last week that said, in part, “The University acted lawfully and in good faith, and we expect a court to agree. Any assertion that we do not take sexual assault seriously enough is simply not true.”
Furthermore, a sexual assault allegation from 20 years ago leveled against then-star quarterback Peyton Manning resurfaced in the news; Jamie Naughright, the director of health and wellness for male athletes at UT, said Manning made inappropriate contact, placing his “naked butt and rectum” on her face (a claim Manning has denied, describing the incident in his autobiography as “crude maybe, but harmless”).
A recent New York Daily News article cited court documents in which Naughright alleged that university officials downplayed the incident and attempted to cover it up. The Manning incident was cited in this month’s lawsuit as well. A lawsuit was settled confidentially in 1997, and a subsequent defamation suit was also settled out of court.
This spate of troubling allegations and arrests in the athletic department of Tennessee’s flagship university—a major business enterprise that generated nearly $122 million in revenue for the last reported fiscal year (ending June 30, 2015)—seems set to draw further scrutiny from state officials and the NCAA. What can be said with certainty is that UT is rapidly descending deeper into a crisis that it is ill-prepared to handle based on its own history.