Davis Resigns Citing Bullying, Abuse by Coach

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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)


Volunteer for Life coordinator Antone Davis wrote in an email to the University of Tennessee that he was resigning due to "constant intimidation, bullying and mental abuse" from football coach Butch Jones.

In the email sent to athletic director John Currie dated Oct. 31 and obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel through a public records request, Davis gave a two-week notice and wrote although he "enjoyed working for the University's athletic program" that his time with Jones was "one of the worst work experiences I have ever had."

In another email to the AD, Davis wrote he felt Currie was "hostile" to him in a meeting earlier in the day.

Davis also added that despite "outstanding performance reviews" he did not receive any pay raises except for "the University wide 11/2-3% increase" despite having seen "others in the department receive raises, promotions, etc."

UT athletic employees Reid Sigmon, Tyler Johnson and Donna Thomas were also included in the email.

It's another unwanted distraction for the Vols (4-5, 0-5 SEC) under the embattled Jones, now in his fifth season leading the program.

VFL leader felt compensation wasn't fair

Davis was earning a salary of $68,971.92, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee 2017 database for UT employees.

Currie responded to Davis' resignation email less than three hours later. He wrote that he was sorry Davis was leaving UT but was glad he found work to rejoin his family in Delaware.

Tennessee said in a news release on Oct. 31 that Davis was leaving his position to pursue personal business opportunities.

Currie, who started at UT on April 1, wrote that he was looking forward to expanding Davis' role and "further synergizing your efforts to help out student-athletes with the Thornton Center and the upcoming VFLconnect program."

He added if Davis' decision to give notice was final, he would need to "relocate your office to the administrative wing immediately."

Currie did not address Davis' salary in the email.

Davis responded an hour later with one last email to Currie with a lengthy response.

Davis was concerned about locating to another office the final two weeks of his employment. And based on Currie's response, Davis said he would remove his personal items from the office and "only occupy the space as needed to transition my responsibilities to my co-workers."

On the subject of compensation, Davis wrote that as a former player there should have been action and Jones or Currie made no attempt to do so, saying he brought up the same issues to the AD on Sept. 22.

Davis felt meeting with Currie was 'hostile'

In a meeting held earlier in the day with Sigmon, Johnson and Thomas in Currie's office before the email exchange, Davis wrote, "I felt you (Currie) staring down as you sat across the table from me. I am not sure why you needed to do that but it was very uncomfortable and I felt it hostile."

Davis added he is "not leaving Tennessee because I want to.

"I am leaving because I must. My biggest regret and fear is that I am leaving behind student-athletes and co-workers that may be subjected to the same treatment I have received."

Davis concluded, "In closing, I deeply regret that things have been allowed to transpire, causing a high level of anxiety and other health issues thus creating my need to resign."

Three minutes later, Currie responded, writing, "Thanks Antone, I understand," and signed it "John."

Currie, through a UT spokesman, did not want to comment on the story.

Jones issued a statement through UT, saying, "I wish Antone Davis well and thank him for his work as Tennessee's Vol For Life coordinator."

Davis has been unavailable for comment.

On Nov. 3, Davis wrote on Twitter in a response to a tweet from former UT wide receiver Jayson Swain, "THANK YOU for you and ALL VFLs that have ALWAYS had my back. I'm humbled and truly grateful for your continued love & support."

"We appreciate Antone's work for the University of Tennessee and our football program," Currie said in a statement on Oct. 31. "He had an outstanding career here as a student-athlete and then returned more than 20 years later to impact the lives of young men who were following in his footsteps. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Davis' replacement has not been named.

Davis was All-American, first-round pick

Davis, a former Tennessee All-American, was hired in 2012 by former coach Derek Dooley to replace Andre Lott. Dooley was fired after the the 11th game of the 2012 season and later replaced by Jones.

The VFL program started under Dooley to help players in the areas of character education, life skills, career development and spiritual growth.

Davis capped his UT career by winning the Jacobs Trophy as the SEC's top blocker in 1990. He was picked eighth overall in the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1991 and spent seven years in the NFL before retiring in 1999.

He invested in restaurants and real estate in Florida after his football career, but moved back to Knoxville with the goal of getting into coaching.

Davis appeared on a season of "The Biggest Loser," an NBC reality show in which people compete to lose weight under the supervision of nutritionists and fitness experts. He lost 202 pounds, good for second place in the 2011 installment of the show.

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November 10, 2017


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