Vols deny Bowles attack; defend culture of athletics, campus
Defending the culture in place at the University of Tennessee and also saying he was never aware of any attack on former player Drae Bowles, Jalen Reeves-Maybin led a trio of Tennessee players Thursday night inside the Anderson Training Center in addressing the onslaught of negative headlines surrounding UT athletics and specifically the Vols’ football program.
“That’s something that I never was aware of him being attacked,” said Reeves-Maybin, a senior linebacker and team leader. “You know, he was a member of our team for the rest of the year. Went to the bowl game with us. We were around him every day. I mean, if a person didn’t feel safe I wouldn’t think that they would come around 100 guys every day.
“Playing this sport that we play, if you didn’t feel safe I don’t think a person would constantly put themselves in that situation. I think that speaks volumes for it. He has his side of the story, but he was still around us every day.
“I just feel like truly, deep down inside, everyone knows that there’s no hostile environment here. Y’all are reporters, we don’t make threats at y’all for asking us questions. Y’all make us mad sometimes when y’all ask questions, but we don’t threaten y’all, I don’t think. Like I said, we’re just going to keep building what we got here. Keep loving up my teammates. We all got each other’s back, like a family. If somebody attacks your mom, you’re going to have her back. She might be right or wrong, but the purpose should be to help her get better; not to break her down more. When somebody makes a mistake, you want to help them get better and not draw more out of them to make it even worse.”
Added recently graduated offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson, “To my knowledge, I don’t know anything about that but Drae did stay on the team all the way through the season and I saw him every day at practice and in meetings and he was with us at the bowl site, so I never heard of anything that that was about. But he did stay with us for the next two months, and I saw him every day. He was upbeat and he was enjoying his time that he had with the team.”
The players spoke just hours after Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Dave Hart offered sympathy and a strong defense of the campus environment.
“I believe very, very strongly in what we’re doing here in the athletics program at the University of Tennessee, and I trust Butch Jones implicitly,” Hart declared inside the Ray & Lucy Hand Digital Studio. “I know who he is. I know what his work ethic is. I know what he’s meant to this university well beyond the department of athletics, and I know how he’s represented the university. Again, I trust in him implicitly.
“We have over 550 student-athletes in our total student-athlete population, and it’s our responsibility to equip them with the knowledge that will carry them into the next stage of their lives. Part of that is that maturation process I referenced. It’s complex. It’s very, very complex when you’re dealing with young people, but we’ll continue to focus on that as we have in the past, and as we continue to as we go through this academic year.”
Quarterback Josh Dobbs, meanwhile, offered sympathy for the alleged victims of sexual assault. Six unidentified women filed an initial federal Title IX lawsuit in Nashville on Feb. 9, against the University of Tennessee and cited an environment that enabled poor behavior. Two more alleged victims joined the lawsuit on Wednesday, and UT has not yet filed its response.
“Our hearts and our prayers go out to them,” said Dobbs, an honor student majoring in aerospace engineering. “We understand the consequences of people’s mistakes that they’ve had. So our hearts and prayers would go out to them. We pray for them and hopefully that they seek peace.”
Knoxville Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin, a former Vol and NFL player, offered his view on the imbroglio during Tennessee’s annual “VFL Career Night,” which provided the players a platform to speak.
“From what I understand is this is a civil action and discovery is a really long process," Irwin said. "We don't know too much. Everything from some really bad stuff that is under criminal investigation now to a mooning incident 100 years ago is supposed to be woven into a culture and I don't know the answer yet. It hasn't shaken my confidence in the kids here and the University. I'm not going to judge the whole by one or two bad acts.
"One good thing about being a judge is you only judge what the facts are when they are put in front of you. I haven't heard a lot of facts. I've just heard a lot of speculation right now. I have a lot of confidence in these coaches as good solid people, not just the football coaches, but the other coaches too. I know them as people and I've seen the interaction with other families and I have confidence in those folks integrity. I don't believe that there is a culture or system here at the University that is condoning sexual violence or cover stuff up. I don't believe that."
Alvin Kamara, who began his career at the University of Alabama before a stint in junior college, said that the culture at the University of Tennessee contributed to his decision to become a Vol.
"It's one of the main reasons I came to the University of Tennessee," Kamara said. "Because of Dobbs and Jalen and guys like Curt Maggitt, who is no longer with us. Just guys like that have created a positive culture at the University of Tennessee.
“Coach Jones, it trickles down from him. He has worked hard for four years to create a culture where everyone is working with the community and working with the university and us in athletics. We are all close and we have chemistry. The culture speaks for itself. I would challenge (Media) to come spend a day and see how our culture is here. It's no where else I've been."