Former Yale Basketball Star Can’t Escape Sexual Assault Allegations

The story behind Bulldogs captain Jack Montague's departure is said to be an open secret

Former Yale basketball captain Jack Montague — (Getty Images)
Mar 10, 2016 at 10:38 AM ET

The controversy over the February departure of Yale’s basketball captain Jack Montague has continued to escalate amidst allegations—made on posters scattered across the Ivy League school’s campus—that the senior guard committed sexual assault. Speaking anonymously, a Yale student tells Vocativ that very few details are floating around on campus about the nature of the alleged offense, but that the reason for his dismissal is an open secret.

“It is pretty clear to most people that he was expelled for sexual assault,” the student said. “It takes a lot to get expelled at Yale, even for sexual assault, and since no one has tried to deny that it happened, and lots of credible people are saying that’s what it was, that’s what most people believe.”

More The Advocates Taking On Tennessee’s Sexual Assault Crisis

Dec. 5 was a day the New Haven Register said would “live in glory” for Montague as he led his team to a victory over Vermont that night, scoring a team-high 17 points. However, the Tennessee native would soon withdraw from Yale and leave the team, stirring up a cauldron of rumors, leaving the team embroiled in controversy during their best season in a half-century, and raising questions about how campus assaults at Yale are handled and reported.

Here’s a timeline of what we know so far.

Feb. 10 Yale academic records show Jack Montague withdraws from Yale, though it won’t be reported for a week.

Feb. 18 After noticing Montague missed games at Dartmouth and Harvard, the Yale Daily News breaks the news that Montague has left. Montague tells the student paper in a statement, “I’m taking a personal leave and I’m trying to get back as soon as possible.” Steve Conn, Yale’s Director of Sports Publicity, says Montague is taking care of “personal issues.”

Feb. 25 Yale Athletics confirms Montague will not be returning to the team, the Yale Daily News reports. Montague’s name no longer appears on the Yale men’s basketball 2015-2016 roster.

Feb. 26 In Yale’s penultimate game of the season against Harvard, a win, teammates make their first public statement about Montague’s absence: They appear wearing gray T-shirts with Montague’s #4 jersey number on them, with Yale written backwards on the front. Fans chant “Gucci,” Montague’s nickname, from the stands. Senior forward Justin Sears tells the Yale Daily News the backwards lettering was not a protest but only meant to avoid copyright issues, and that they wore the shirts as a show of support.

“Everyone on the team supported it and wanted to show our support for Jack,” Sears said.

March 1 Sexual assault allegations appear via a wave of posters on campus at the entrance of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, some of which say “Yale Men’s Basketball: Stop Supporting a Rapist.” Asked about the posters, Sears tells the Yale Daily News that “We knew, when we wore those shirts, that there was going to be a reaction, and this is the reaction. We just want to stick together as a team and remain focused.” He adds, “We just wanted to make it as clear as possible that Jack is one of our brothers. He’s family to us and we miss him.”

March 3 A second wave of campus posters appears at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, this time in the Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona lecture hall. They show photos of teammates wearing the Montague T-shirts that read, “stop supporting a rapist,” “‘Teammate’ ‘Family’ ‘Brother’ Rapist,” and “YDN, why so silent? Stop protecting a rapist.” On the classroom’s blackboard is a message in chalk: “Rape culture is standing by your teammate and silencing Yale’s victims of sexual assault.”

Sears admits to the Yale Daily News that the posters were removed by teammates.

March 3 Montague’s father, Jim, tells the New Haven Register in Connecticut that his son has not withdrawn from the school, but has been expelled. “We have strict orders from our lawyers,”Jim says. “Soon enough, I’d love to tell the other side of the story. It’s ridiculous, why he’s expelled. It’s probably going to set some sort of precedent. We’re trying to do things the gentleman’s way, so we’re keeping things close-knit. But you guys will get a story.”

Yale’s press secretary Tom Conroy cites the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, telling the Register that Yale policy is to not release identifiable information from a student’s educational record to the public, unless a student requests that the information be disclosed.

The Yale Women’s Center Facebook page issues a statement, since edited, that read, in part:

While the campus can only speculate on what occurred, we can comfortably say that, should all of this be true, this is progress. It seems that a survivor felt that coming forward was a viable option and that they got the decisive outcome that they likely fought hard for.

A New Haven law firm, Jacobs & Dow, tells the Yale Daily News that Jack Montague is a client; a lawyer there tells Jezebel they don’t represent Montague. The New Haven Register reports that there is no arrest record or court hearing on file involving Montague in the Connecticut judicial system.

More Tennessee Fans Blame Rape Victims For Messing Up Football

March 5 Now three weeks since Montague’s withdrawal from Yale, Dean Jonathan Holloway addresses Montague’s departure in an email to undergrads, asking the students to “treat each other civilly” as they engage on the subject.

In the team’s final regular season game in New York that night, a victory at Columbia, members raise four fingers to indicate Montague’s former team number, according to the Daily News. Khaliq Ghani, a guard, wore a piece of wrist tape that said “Gucci” on it. In a post-game interview with ESPN, head coach James Jones says, “Jack knows how we feel about him—we love him. He’s a great young man and we love him.”

He also mentions that the controversy is “not something we talk about. We coach basketball and play basketball, deal with guys that are in the room and do the best we can.”

Jones also tells Sports Illustrated that night in response to being asked about the controversy, “That isn’t of any interest to me. The only interesting thing to me right now is winning a basketball game.”

A Columbia fan takes off his T-shirt to reveal “The Yale capt. is a rapist” written in red paint on his chest. He tells the News, “It was the silent protest on the part of Yale’s team that frustrated me most.

“People who come forward with allegations of sexual assault have very little to gain by doing so, especially given their anonymity. They also have a lot to lose.”

The 71-55 victory secures Yale an Ivy League title, and a spot at the NCAA tournament for the first time in a half century.

March 8 The Guardian reports that, according to an anonymous Yale player, Montague himself will eventually clear up the controversy. “For legal reasons, Jack isn’t allowed yet to defend his name and say what the actual situation is,” the player said. “So in time he’ll be able to say what’s going and everyone will be able to take a step back and realize that all this is a little bit overboard.”

March 9 A third wave of posters appears on campus around 1 a.m. in response to public attention to the controversy, the Daily News reports, one of which reads, “There’s something rotten in the Yale Men’s Basketball team.” The posters are gone by 7:30 a.m.

According to the Yale undergraduate handbook section on general conduct and discipline for the 2015-2016 year, possible grounds for expulsion include academic dishonesty, rioting, hazing, and sexual misconduct, including harassment such as digital media stalking or cyberbullying. Violations of sexual misconduct, it says, will be addressed by the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. According to listed procedure, the process of investigation from hearing to penalty can take several weeks. Their recommendation is passed on to the dean of the student’s school, who has a week to determine penalties or disciplinary action from there.

In Lucy Carmelo’s Yale Herald op-ed, she notes that expulsions related to UWC cases are rare, and “only result in expulsion if the committee finds a preponderance of evidence that a respondent severely violated Yale’s sexual misconduct policy, a decision that takes into account prior violations of a similar nature.”

Last semester at Yale, ending December 31, 2015, reports show that the committee investigated 41 undergraduate complaints of sexual misconduct, including 20 instances of assault and 15 involving sexual harassment. While some of the cases are still pending, others lacked sufficient evidence to proceed and only one resulted in expulsion.

Calls and emails to Yale press secretary Tom Conroy were not returned.