Dramatic changes were announced by Florida Memorial University officials this week after two weeks of turmoil that began with a rise in reported COVID-19 cases on campus. Amid allegations of sexual misconduct, Ernest T. Jones, FMU’s athletic director, has resigned. In turn, the NAIA-member university announced its first female athletic director as his replacement.
In a statement released by the university, president Dr. Jaffus Hardrick stated that Jones had resigned as athletic director and that “he would be leaving his role to pursue other career opportunities.”
As reported by The Miami Times, Jones had been accused by student-athletes and employees of threatening to take scholarships away from students, removing students from teams and suspending coaches who have spoken out about the coronavirus crisis on campus. Jones did suspend two coaches — football coach Timothy “Ice” Harris and volleyball coach Marrita Crockett-Moulton, who have since returned to their jobs.
Jones faces multiple unconfirmed accusations of sexual misconduct, including some that occurred against coworkers, sources tell The Miami Times.
In one week, two petitions called for Jones’ removal — one garnering 777 signatures before it was taken down by the creator and another calling him a “sexual predator” that received 118 supporters.
The switch to remote learning that began Monday was announced by the FMU president in a second statement. The remaining sports — men’s football and soccer — are now cancelled, following the cancellation of women’s volleyball and soccer two days prior.
Throughout October, students and employees expressed concern over the school’s handling of the virus as it began to spread throughout the Lions’ athletic sports teams. At one point, at least 30 football players tested positive, according to several sources.
One student-athlete who spoke to The Miami Timeson the condition of anonymity began to see that testing was down to once a month and that people on campus had stopped social distancing and wearing masks. The reason for that, the athlete said, was because when working out and practicing for sports, masks are uncomfortable, so students were given permission to take them off. Students started getting tested for COVID-19 off campus when results from tests taken at FMU took too long to arrive.
As a result of the coronavirus spread on campus, teams pressed for the last game of the season to be played without fans to reduce further infection. Athletic director Jones allegedly ignored the requests and allowed fans into the final game, forcing the entire team into isolation.
The student-athlete went on Twitter and posted that the school prioritizes money over the health of its students, accused the school of negligence and encouraged others to speak out. Although the student did not face personal consequences, which they believe is because so many people got involved – peers and coaches faced retribution.
In a virtual press conference Monday, FMU announced that Chevonne Mansfield, deputy athletic director, will serve as the new interim athletic director, replacing Jones — making her the first African American woman to serve in that capacity at the university and the 10th in the NAIA.