The Rutgers athletics department finds itself in another self-made shitstorm now that a football player claims he was bullied and physically threatened by defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. Consensus three-star recruit and scholarship player, Jevon Tyree, claims Cohen launched into a spittle-filled tirade where he called the 19-year-old a "pussy" and "bitch" in front of 10 other teammates and an academic advisor. Tyree also says his coach threatened to head-butt him.
The incident, which occurred in April, was the tipping point in what Tyree feels was a team-wide and systematic effort to isolate him from the rest of the team. Tyree says that Cohen was derogatory almost from Jump Street, when Tyree missed about a week early in the spring because he injured his hamstring.
Tyree said Cohen was demeaning from the outset, comparing his skills to those of a Div. 3 player. The situation exploded during the study hall session, when Tyree said harmless banter about haircuts quickly escalated when Cohen "went off."
"He was just trying to really make me feel as if I was soft," Tyree said. "He got all up in my face. Coach Cohen has a lisp, so he was in my face telling me he'll head-butt me, and he was kind of spitting in my face as he was saying it. I was just pulling my head back, looking at him like, 'Is this guy out of his mind? Is he crazy?' "
Tyree, who plays cornerback, claims his standing with the team and the rest of the coaches immediately sank from that moment. He was excluded from cornerbacks meetings when every other cornerback had been invited but him. Tyree finally quit after the team, desperately thin at the position, converted a wide receiver to cornerback rather than play him.
It's possible there's another explanation for this—that there was no effort to isolate him, that Tyree is simply not as good as Rutgers thought he was when they handed him a scholarship—but Rutgers hasn't said that. In fact, Rutgers hasn't said much of anything and when it has, Tyree's family claims the school is lying.
In a statement addressing the issue last night, Rutgers said the defensive coordinator "apologized the following day for his participation in the escalation of banter, which resulted in the use of inappropriate language," that head coach Kyle Flood "initiated" a meeting with the Tyrees when he learned of the situation and that athletic director Julie Hermann "spoke to Tyree's father following the meeting with Flood and confirmed that the matter was resolved to his satisfaction."
Tyree's parents, Mark and Clarice, had a different version of events.
"I never talked to her. That is insane," Mark Tyree said. "My mother has passed and I would put my hand on a stack of Bibles in her goodness. That's ridiculous that she would even say that. That's scary."
"We initiated the meeting," Clarice Tyree said. "(Flood) accepted having a meeting with us. That meeting occurred because Cohen said to Mark, 'At this point, I'd rather you talk to Coach Flood.' So we picked up the phone and we called Coach Flood. He did not initiate a conversation with us. We called Coach Flood and Coach Flood returned a call to us, and we had our first back-and-forth on the phone and then we made that meeting to come in to see him. But we initiated that call to Flood."
The statement said Hermann spoke with Tyree's father after that meeting to confirm that he was satisfied with how the matter was resolved.
Clarice Tyree said that conversation did not occur.
"He has never, ever talked to Julie Hermann," Clarice Tyree said. "I swear to you, we have never, ever, ever talked to Hermann. Never, ever."
This is the same school that hastily hired a candidate it either didn't know (or didn't care) was a bully to fix an athletics department that enabled another bully. In the nearly six months since she has been in charge, Rutgers has moved on from a grown man calling kids "fucking faggots" and launching basketballs at their heads to a grown man launching saliva and calling a 19-year-old freshman a "pussy" while merely (allegedly) threatening violence. Progress?
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