Hours after a public relations firm announced in a press release that former Missouri swim coach Greg Rhodenbaugh had been cleared of wrongdoing in a Title IX investigation, the University of Missouri publicly disputed the release, calling it “inaccurate.”
Rhodenbaugh had been on paid administrative leave since last fall. Reports said Rhodenbaugh was under a Title IX investigation based on his handling of female athletes and athletes with mental health concerns. Since November, the school has not responded to any of our requests for comment on the situation and would not confirm Rhodenbaugh’s status with the program, nor the status of a Title IX investigation.
Earlier today, PR firm Vox Populi Communications distributed a press release claiming that Rhodenbaugh had been “cleared of all Title IX charges” and that the University had officially closed the investigation. That release suggested that Missouri’s closing of the case came after Rhodenbaugh hired an attorney and told the University of his intent to file a lawsuit for defamation and termination without notice or cause.
The school finally responded to our requests today with a release of its own, calling the Vox Populi release “inaccurate” and saying it “mischaracterized the university’s Title IX investigation and conclusion.”
The school agrees that the investigation was closed, but disputes that Rhodenbaugh was cleared. The school says it did not issue a finding, and that when it terminated Rhodenbaugh’s contract, the investigation ended without a conclusion.
“Recently, the investigation was closed because the university exercised its right in Rhodenbaugh’s contract to terminate his employment,” the school says. “Therefore, due to the fact that he would no longer be an employee of the university, no final Title IX report would be issued.”
The school also disputes the claim in the Vox Populi release that Rhodenbaugh wasn’t able to defend himself during the investigation:
“Gregory A. Anderson, Rhodenbaugh’s attorney, also indicated the former coach did not have an opportunity to defend himself against numerous complaints,” the school says. “Rhodenbaugh was provided detailed information throughout the process and met with university officials on several occasions with the assistance of his attorney.”
Mizzou promoted associate head coach Andrew Grevers to interim head coach when Rhodenbaugh was first placed on administrative leave, then promoted him to permanent head coach back in May. Athletics director Jim Sterk commented on the move last month, saying that the program needed to “move on and have stability in leadership,” per the Columbia Missourian.
Full Missouri press release:
A press release issued by a public relations firm and the attorney of former swimming coach Greg Rhodenbaugh is inaccurate and mischaracterized the university’s Title IX investigation and conclusion, University of Missouri officials said.
On Monday, a press release claimed that Rhodenbaugh was “cleared of all Title IX charges.” This was inaccurate; the university did not issue a finding. Gregory A. Anderson, Rhodenbaugh’s attorney, also indicated the former coach did not have an opportunity to defend himself against numerous complaints. Rhodenbaugh was provided detailed information throughout the process and met with university officials on several occasions with the assistance of his attorney.
Last fall, the university suspended Rhodenbaugh from coaching over concerns about his team management practices, and the university initiated a Title IX investigation. Recently, the investigation was closed because the university exercised its right in Rhodenbaugh’s contract to terminate his employment. Therefore, due to the fact that he would no longer be an employee of the university, no final Title IX report would be issued.
“If an individual’s employment status ends and a Title IX investigation is currently ongoing, the investigation is typically closed,” said Andrea Hayes, assistant vice chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX. “This does not indicate that there was a finding that an individual was cleared.”
MU’s Title IX process is viewed by many as a model among higher education institutions around the country. The current process was developed after input from students, faculty and staff and dozens of university and outside law experts — including two, independent consultants. The process clearly allows any respondents to know the specific concerns and present evidence.
“We make sure that anyone involved in the investigation has an opportunity to review information we uncover as well as represent themselves before any decision is made,” Hayes said. “We also have an extensive appeals process that can be utilized when needed.”