The AAU has banned the legendary youth volleyball coach Rick Butler after a multi-year investigation into sexual abuse allegations. The removal was announced Friday. In an emailed statement, the AAU, which had remained silent for months about the allegations, said:
When claims of misconduct arise involving our members, the AAU Code provides for a review procedure to ensure due process to all concerned. This procedure recently concluded with regard to claims of misconduct against AAU member, Rick Butler.
As a result of the review, the AAU determined that as of today, February 9, 2018, Mr. Butler is no longer a member of the AAU. His membership has been voided and he is permanently disqualified from participating in any activity involving the AAU.
Butler had been accused of having sexual contact with five underage girls, dating back to the 1980s. Two of the accusations were made public in an investigative report by the Chicago Sun-Times that was published in November of last year. Two months after the report was published, Butler was banned permanently by USA Volleyball. He was first banned for life by the sport’s governing body in 1995 for having sexual contact with underage girls, but USA Volleyball partially lifted that ban in 2000, allowing him to return to coaching, but stipulating he could not coach junior teams.
The AAU, however, never imposed any limits on him. One of Butler’s former players, Sarah Powers-Barnhard, who said she was abused by Butler for two years starting when she was 16, sued AAU in 2016 for allowing Butler to continue coaching underage girls.
Powers-Barnhard recalled the abuse in an interview with First Coast News. She said Butler told her she needed to “follow him blindly” if she “wanted to be great.”
“He leaned over and kissed me and I had no clue it was coming,” she explained. “No idea. It was very confusing.”
Powers-Barnhard said that incident was just the very beginning of many. She said she lost her virginity to a coach she trusted.
“The sexual abuse started that summer and it came with him inviting me over to his house to talk about the team,” she recalled.
When asked how many times Butler sexually abused her, she replied: “More than I can count. Yeah, hundreds.”
She wasn’t the only one. First Coast News also detailed allegations by Julie Bremner Romias and Christine Brigman Tuzi, both of whom said Butler sexually abused them in high school.
“He was a classic predator,” Romias said. “The first time he actually physically touched me was when we were at a tournament in Japan... That’s when he kissed me and groped me.”
“Shortly thereafter when we got back to the States is when he forced himself on me and raped me,” she said. “I was 17 at the time.”
Tuzi said just the thought of his name brings back fear and panic.
“I’m not ok,” Tuzi said. “I’m not ok. You can ask my kids and husband. I’m not ok. I have issues and I have to work on them daily and that’s because of him.”