A public relations firm retained by former University of Missouri swimming coach Greg Rhodenbaugh released a statement Monday declaring that the coach had been cleared of all charges in the wake of a nine-month Title IX investigation centering on how he managed the team.
However, the school disputes that the coach was cleared, telling the Columbia Daily Tribune that while the investigation was indeed closed, the school never issued a finding on charges.
Rhodenbaugh was placed on paid administrative leave when the investigation into his conduct began in October. Student-athletes had voiced concerns about how the coach’s management of female team members impacted their mental health.
"In my 34 years of coaching collegiate athletes, I think everyone I coached recognized that I deeply care about them and would do anything to help them achieve their goals and dreams — in the pool and out," Rhodenbaugh said in the release. "My assistant coaches and I were the strongest advocates for 60 swimmers. From the sidelines, I encouraged the swimmers to stay focused on their goals and to not get sidetracked by all this."
Missouri appointed assistant coach Andrew Grevers to serve in an interim capacity while the investigation was ongoing. Grevers was elevated to the head coaching position in May, after the school reassigned Rhodenbaugh within the athletic department.
An attorney for Rhodenbaugh, Gregory A. Anderson, has filed a lawsuit against the school for defamation and for terminating him without notice or cause, according to the PR firm’s release.
Rhodenbaugh’s termination could prove to be a key point in the factual dispute regarding the findings of the investigation.
Andrea Hayes, assistant vice chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX provided a statement in response to the claims of exoneration made by Rhodenbaugh’s representatives, saying “If an individual’s employment status ends and a Title IX investigation is currently ongoing, the investigation is typically closed. This does not indicate that there was a finding that an individual was cleared.”
The statement released by the PR firm, which was obtained by Swimming World Magazine, claims that the Title IX process at Missouri disallows an accused person from defending him or herself.
“There was no due process,” Anderson says in the statement. “It was only when we made clear our plan to challenge these procedures in federal court that the Title IX director’s enthusiasm evaporated.”
The university response disputes that.
“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.”