Addressing the media for the first time since six women filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Tennessee for alleged Title IX violations and fostering a "hostile sexual enviornment", Butch Jones defended his program's culture. The lawsuit names four former Tennessee athletes, including A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, who were indicted on aggravated rape charges in February and are set to stand trial separately this summer. The lawsuit also names one current Tennessee football player listed as a "John Doe."
"There is no culture problem," Jones said on Saturday inside Thompson-Boling Arena moments before Tennessee's basketball game against LSU. "We've worked very hard to build our culture. We'll continue to defend it, but we're very proud of what we have here."
The fourth-year head coach stressed his team's growth and development programs along with recent success in the classroom to showcase how he's taken steps to help players off the field.
"You just look at the academic excellence, the graduation rates, the community service, winning on the field, winning off the field," Jones said. “Everything, every day, you’re building your culture. We’ve had over 50 speakers, guest speakers ... We’re one of the only schools in the country to have a year-round personal growth and development program. Most people do it just in the offseason.”
Jones also addressed the recent suspension of junior college transfer Alexis Johnson, who was arrested and charged on Wednesday with aggravated assault and false imprisonment after an alleged domestic violence incident in Knoxville on Sunday. Johnson will enter a plea of not guilty according to his attorney, Gregory Issacs.
"It’s an ongoing legal process, and we take all accusations seriously," Jones said. "Can we continue to improve? Yeah, just like any team, company or organization, but our players have done a great job and we have great people here at Tennessee."
Jones was in attendance for the Vols' 81-65 win over LSU and led his team onto the court at halftime to be honored for a 2015 season that culminated in an Outback Bowl win.
"The people that know us, they know our football program, they understand what's going on here with all the positivity," Jones said. "They understand that. We just have to continue to work and grow and get better and let it galvanize us and bring us closer as a football team and a football program. People who understand what we're all about, they understand we have a good culture in place."