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Boise State Coach on Leave Over Assault Lawsuit

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Boise State is putting the brakes on promoting assistant women’s basketball coach Cody Butler to the head coaching job as he faces a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse and harassment of a player at his previous job.

Butler has been with Boise State since 2012. He’s being sued by a former women’s basketball player at Yakima Valley, where he was a men’s and women’s assistant coach from 2000 to 2002, and the co-head coach of the women’s team in 2002-03 and the head women’s coach from 2003 to 2012.

The allegations in the lawsuit date back to 2000. The woman who filed the lawsuit was a player on the Yakima Valley women’s basketball team from 2001 to 2003.

Boise State placed Butler on administrative leave this week immediately upon hearing of the lawsuit. 

“Upon discovery of a lawsuit against assistant coach Cody Butler, Boise State placed him on administrative leave pending university review of the matter,” the Boise State athletic department said in a statement provided to the Idaho Statesman.

The unnamed plaintiff in the case alleges that Butler made persistent comments about her body, as well as inappropriate physical contact during one-on-one coaching sessions and office meetings. The plaintiff said that the comments and touching began when she was a 17-year-old high school student attending the Jam On It youth basketball program in Sparks, Nevada.

Butler, Yakima Valley College and the state of Washington are all named as defendants in the lawsuit, and they have all denied any wrongdoing. The lawsuit was filed in May and a motion to dismiss it was denied in October.

According to the Statesman, the plaintiff played one more year of basketball at an NAIA school after Yakima Valley before drug and alcohol addiction derailed her life. She eventually became homeless in Arizona and spent about three years in prison on charges related to drug abuse, she said.

“I soon went from being the captain of my basketball team to becoming an alcoholic and a heroin addict,” her court declaration states.

Since being released from prison in 2012, the plaintiff has been sober for nine years, and in that time received a master’s degree, gotten married and has had three children.

The plaintiff said she began to understand what happened to her in late 2018, when she saw a Facebook video of another woman, Ashlee Orndorff, telling of her experience as a young basketball player with Butler and Matt Williams, the man who founded Jam On It. Orndorff told a story of spending time as a teenager in a hot tub with Butler at Williams’ home. 

“It was at this time in 2018 that I started thinking about it with a clearer head space because I was no longer in a cycle of sex, drugs, eating disorders and alcohol abuse,” the plaintiff said in her declaration. “I began to see … what happened to me in the early 2000s in a new light, and I began the painstaking process of learning how it affected me emotionally and derailed other aspects of my life.”

The plaintiff said she never reported Butler’s actions during her time in college because she didn’t understand what was happening.

“I was really naive,” she said. “I thought that’s what college was. … I thought all coaches did what he did because that’s all I knew.”

Kevin Hastings, an attorney, said the plaintiff’s delayed recognition of what happened to her is common in sexual-abuse victims.

“It’s always alarming to us when we have people in positions of power using their positions to take advantage of those who are not in positions of power,” he said. “Here it’s a student, it’s a teenage student, and you have someone who’s a coach and who’s the gatekeeper to her success. … It is an egregious breach of trust.”

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