Former Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser resigned from his position as assistant athletic director Tuesday night, less than a week after the school’s student paper first uncovered a pattern of sexual misconduct that opened the floodgates for additional reports.
Gesser is something of a local celebrity in Pullman, Wash. As the quarterback of the program from 1999-2002, he set school records and led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl; his NFL and college coaching careers were both brief, but the athletic department at Washington State was plenty happy to welcome him back with a position inside the Cougar Fund, an organization focused on raising money for Washington State athletics. It was during his time, and sometimes through his position, as a donor-schmoozer for the university’s athletic department that Gesser reportedly attempted to force himself onto college athletes, interns, fellow employees, and even a local masseuse.
Last Thursday, The Daily Evergreen, the WSU student paper, broke the initial story, citing documents obtained through a public records request that proved Gesser’s behavior dated back at least four years. The first complaint surfaced in November 2014, when a donor complained that Gesser brought a former Cougars women’s basketball player back to their house at 4:00 a.m. That was followed by a report that Gesser slept with an intern, and another 2015 incident involving a former Washington State volleyball player, Alyssa Bodeau. The same day, Washington State’s spokesperson released a statement claiming, “the university followed its established procedures to review the matter and found no violation of Washington State University policy.”
On Friday, Gesser called the report from the student paper a “non-story” and denied any sort of sexual misconduct, saying the Evergreen’s piece was based on “unfounded accusations.” According to the Evergreen and the Spokesman Review, the official university investigation stalled when the victims refused to speak with officials out of fear of backlash, according to multiple interviews.
Gesser was only placed on leave by Washington State on Monday, after Bodeau decided to speak publicly about Gesser’s behavior toward her with the Evergreen.
Bodeau worked as a babysitter and nanny for Gesser during her time as an athlete and student at Washington State. In June 2015, Gesser invited Bodeau to a fundraiser; after the event, when she and Gesser went to a car to leave, she says he grabbed her thigh and groped her while attempting to kiss her, all without consent. Additionally, he texted her in the following months in an attempt to begin a sexual relationship. Bodeau told the Review that a friend sent her the Evergreen article on Saturday and that the realization that other allegations against Gesser existed helped her summon the confidence to come forward with her story.
“I was honestly at a standstill at the fair for 15 minutes staring at it,” Bodeau said. “I thought I was the only one that this happened to. Reading the article made me realize that I wasn’t the last one, but I also wasn’t the first one. That kind of wrecked me right there.
“What I had been telling myself for three years was, ‘Just be silent. Don’t wreck a family,’” she continued. “But I didn’t know he was doing that to other girls.”
On Tuesday, Gesser, who had denied any wrongdoing to that point, offered his resignation; Washington State hastily accepted it. The Review noted that Gesser’s resignation came just 34 minutes after the paper reached out to request comment for a story that involved Lindsey Streets, a former masseuse in Pullman. Streets claimed Gesser attempted to guide her hand to his penis at the end of a massage and then tipped her $40 after she refused and left the room. He attempted to explain that the money was for working the massage into her schedule, not to pay for her silence. When the woman called the police, they pushed her to not press charges, saying it was only her word versus his. Similar to Bodeau, Streets said reading the former volleyball player’s story on Monday pushed her to speak out.
In his resignation letter, Gesser took a much more somber tone than his outright denial statement issued on Friday; he still maintained innocence based on how he, not the women, felt:
“To the young woman that I made feel uncomfortable, I respectfully have a different recollection of the situation you’ve described,” Gesser wrote, “but acknowledge that I should never have been in the situation in the first place, and I apologize. I truly never meant to cause you harm.”
When asked about Gesser by reporters on Tuesday, Washington State football head coach Mike Leach said he didn’t know the details of the case or that Gesser had resigned, closing by saying, “Hopefully, none of it’s true.”