It’s finally, mercifully, over.
After months of being drug through the mud, Tennessee administrators decided to settle the Title IX lawsuit levied against the school in February. The most bizarre aspect of the settlement is the amount Tennessee had to pay in order to make the whole mess go away: $2.48 million.
Let’s put that in normal-people perspective. The average income in Tennessee is $41,693. So, average citizens would have to pay $833 to avoid getting their name on the front page of countless newspapers and garnering more clicks than the Kardashians.
The entire situation is a black mark on Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart’s résumé. He could have paid about the same amount in a settlement before the case ever went public. Tennessee’s lawyers were aware of the possible lawsuit as early as last summer and were presented with an opportunity to squelch the case before it even became public, a report by John Pennington of sportssource.tv said. Instead, Tennessee chose to fight and gained nothing but bad publicity.
The case was grandstanding at its finest; Peyton Manning’s “mooning” incident was even called into question. And for every lazy millennial who didn’t have the time nor diligence to look up coverage of the incident from the 1990s, they thought the Manning story was breaking news. It was breaking news . . . almost 20 years ago. But Manning’s name gave the case some sizzle, especially after he won Super Bowl 50 and decided to retire.
There certainly were transgressions at Tennessee, as there are at every school. But the lawsuit accused Tennessee’s athletic department of creating a “toxic environment” over the course of six university presidents, four chancellors and three athletic directors. Are we to assume that they all thought so little of women that each allowed such a hostile environment? Or did they all meet and pass down a mission statement that the athletic department would take advantage of women? Both scenarios seem a bit far-fetched.
I have zero problem with the alleged victims receiving financial compensation for any sexual assault they might have endured. I hope any of the alleged perpetrators are punished to the full extent of the law. There should be no pity for anyone who commits a sexual assault.
But this wasn’t about altruism. This was a money grab by a group of attorneys. Civil suits can often cost 50 percent of the awarded sum. It’s quite possible – and likely – that the lawyers representing the alleged victims could pocket $1.24 million. That leaves $1.24 million to be split among the eight victims. That’s $155,000 per victim. While that’s a good amount of money, it’s clear the attorneys benefited more than any others.
Some will say the settlement makes Tennessee look guilty and perhaps it does. But Tennessee had no leverage. School officials surely didn’t want Butch Jones or any other coach or administrator deposed. Settlements happen all the time. Sometimes those that settle are even innocent of the alleged charges, but it’s easier to just make it all go away.
No one is talking about Jameis Winston’s alleged rape at Florida State any longer. Why? Because Florida State settled with the alleged victim. In a settlement, guilt often times is an afterthought.
As with the Winston situation, this case eventually will go away. But had it been handled better, it never would have happened in the first place. Tennessee’s administration is to blame for that.
The lawyers who filed the suit against Tennessee laid the groundwork for how to get a few million bucks from a major institution. It won’t be the last time lawyers act in such a way. Every college football fan should hope his or her school handles such a situation better than Tennessee.