After Jamie Naughright said she was sexually harassed by Peyton Manning, the first person she called at the University of Tennessee was head trainer Mike Rollo. The lifetime Volunteer immediately set out to “fix it.” According to Naughright, no one did more than Rollo to sculpt the long-prevailing narrative of a simple, innocent “mooning.”
The Tennessee Volunteers were one of the best college football teams in the country during the mid-‘90s. The won the 1995 Orange Bowl, the 1998 National Championship, and only lost five games over that span. They were also as scandal-ridden as any program. Players were, at various times during the decade, accused of: assault, rape of a 17-year-old, domestic assault, starting a bar brawl, solicitation, and shoplifting, among other offenses. The biggest scandal came in 1995, when 27 Volunteers players were connected to a telephone credit-card scam.
Jamie Naughright (Jamie Whited, at the time, and referred to as such in some of the court documents) was one of two full-time staffers working under Rollo, who had helped her steadily move up within the department since she entered as a graduate assistant in 1989. In response to the turmoil within the program, Naughright started the Positive Pathways program, which provided life-skills counseling to athletes, as well as attempted to “increase discipline implemented by administrators and coaches.” By Rollo’s account, given in a deposition for Naughright’s 2002 defamation lawsuit against Manning (which was settled out of court), the program was a success.
In 1995, Rollo helped Naughright create a new position for herself within the department: Director of Health & Wellness. While Naughright began as a trainer, her ambitions became less technical the longer she worked there. She wanted, according to Rollo, to get to the root of Tennessee football’s persistent disciplinary and work with athletes on staying out of trouble. Positive Pathways and her new job were both ways for her to do so.
Not everyone was so enthusiastic about the young woman trying to shake up the department. Naughright had a meeting with coach Phillip Fulmer where she laid out a few proposals on how to improve football players’ GPAs. According to Rollo’s deposition, which was made publicly available for the first time yesterday, Fulmer returned one of her proposals to her with “11-1, that’s all anybody cares about,” written on it.
(In his deposition, Fulmer said he didn’t recall what that written statement was referring to. He also unequivocally denied a claim that he had told Naughright, “I don’t care if they beat, rape, or murder as long as they get that ball into the end zone.”)
Naughright also took the lead on managing the community service program that some of the athletes caught up in the telephone scam were assigned to. While on site, wide receiver Tory Edge allegedly threw money in Naughright’s face and the two had an “altercation” the next day. Edge was prescribed “mandatory counseling for aggressive behavior,” and was ordered to perform the rest of his community service away from Naughright. However, Rollo let Edge return to Naughright’s supervision shortly after. Naughright accused Rollo of “subverting” the disciplinary program she was supposed to be running. Rollo pleaded ignorance.
Rollo’s investigation into the matter concluded fault on both sides. He admitted that Edge was out of line, but that Naughright was “cursing and therefore exhibiting unprofessional behavior.” This is a persistent refrain in Rollo’s deposition—and in Peyton Manning’s later dismissal of Naughright as “vulgar.” In his deposition, Rollo stresses the overwhelmingly masculine culture of the athletic department, particularly the football team. With regards to the Edge incident, Rollo even referred to Naughright as “one of the boys.”
Naughright could hang with the men in the room, according to Rollo, and would out-curse most of them, with a variety of “hells, damns, shits, fucks, motherfuck.” He refers to her as a toughened “Jersey girl”,who would routinely make fun of the football players and get just as mean and crass as they would.
In early 1996, players Greg Kyler and Anthony Hampton returned to the practice facility after getting arrested for beating up a student manager a few days prior. When they entered the facility, they saw the same student and “lost it, and went after him.” Naughright then grabbed one of them “by the collar,” “whipped him around,” got in his face, and convinced him to stop.
Rollo speaks about Naughright’s sometimes argumentative relationship to Tennessee’s athletes with a combination of pride and concern. He didn’t seem exactly surprised that it crossed the line, maybe because he was one of the ones who crossed it himself. It was Rollo, after all, who responded to an early complaint of sexual harassment by giving Naughright a barbie doll and taping a quote that read, “She doesn’t respect how things are done here. Men should be head of all things,” to her door. While he was being questioned regarding Naughright’s 1996 employment discrimination complaint, he claimed it was a joke.
In that 1996 complaint, Naughright alleged a pattern of sexual harassment while employed at the University of Tennessee, and at the time, the Peyton Manning incident was just one of 33 claimed examples.
Manning has alleged that he meant it for another athlete in the training room, and that he never exposed anything but his butt. However, Naughright experienced a pair of moonings before this one, and she wasn’t bothered.
According to Rollo. Both incidents took place within a general context of “horseplay and joking,” and Naughright never filed any complaint.
But when Peyton Manning lowered his shorts (the only fact which he doesn’t dispute), and Naughright alleges he showed off his “gluteus maximus, the rectum, the testicles, and the area in between the testicles,” that was different. She was shaking and kept repeating the same things over and over, Rollo said. Rollo noticed that she seemed unusually affected by the incident.
Still, Rollo, who called Manning “relatively flawless,” stressed caution and expressed skepticism of Naughright’s story.
After the incident, Naughright left the training facility and went to a friend’s house to unburden herself. That friend, Kirsten Benson, called Rollo, waking him from a nap in the office. He came immediately and listened to Naughright’s story, but urged her not to go to the police. He told Naughright that by speaking to the police and raising accusations of harassment over a mere mooning, she’d open herself up to “derision and scorn.”
Rollo then went to Manning for his side of the story. He stated in an initial statement that he went there to “fix it,” a description—a direct quote of his—that he disputed in his deposition seven years later.
His solution? To have Manning call Naughright, apologize, and try to convince her it was all a big misunderstanding, that he had intended to moon a nearby track athlete. (That athlete, Malcolm Saxon, disputed this retelling and he claims he lost his eligibility for taking the fall for Manning.)
Naughright wouldn’t come back to work until August, immediately taking “medical leave.” Manning’s punishment for the incident was “six o’clock running.”
Mike Rollo, according to Naughright’s deposition, was instrumental in pushing Manning towards the “mooning” version of events. He ended up working for the school until he retired in 2007. When Rollo passed away last year, Peyton Manning said, “Mike always gave his all for Tennessee.”
Rollo’s full deposition is below.