Tennessee under federal investigation for sexual violence

Sam Cooper
Oct 2, 2010; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; A Tennessee Volunteers helmet is seen during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Tennessee 16-14.Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Oct 2, 2010; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; A Tennessee Volunteers helmet is seen during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Tennessee 16-14.Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has started an investigation into sexual violence at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

According to the Tennessean, an individual filed a federal complaint “regarding the university’s response to a report of sexual violence.” UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek informed faculty, staff and students of the complaint in an email.

“While privacy laws prevent the university from disclosing the details of the complaint, I can assure you we will cooperate fully with OCR as it investigates the complaint,” Cheek’s email said.

At least six football players on the Tennessee's 2014 roster have been accused of sexual assault.

Cornerback Michael Williams and linebacker A.J. Johnson were named as suspects in a November rape case. Williams was indicted on two counts of aggravated rape and a UT athletics spokesman said the team had "moved on" from Williams. Johnson has since graduated, but the NFL withdrew Johnson’s invitation to the NFL combine.

Wide receiver Von Pearson was named as a suspect in the alleged rape of a 19-year-old UT student at an off-campus apartment. He has not been charged, but the team indefinitely suspended him.

Riyahd Jones, a defensive back who parted ways with the football program in January, was also named as a suspect in a February sexual assault. No charges were filed when the woman declined to prosecute.

Additionally, running back Marlin Lane was named as a suspect in an alleged rape that occurred in April 2013 in his dorm. Charges were never filed after the alleged victim said she did not want to press charges. Lane, who had been suspended for “disciplinary reasons” after the allegation emerged, was reinstated and played in every game for the Vols in 2013 and 2014.

Another incident involved a player that the Tennessean decided not to name “because he has not been publicly accused and no police report was filed.”

From the Tennessean:

In September a football player was named in a sexual assault complaint made to university officials by a freshman woman, according to an internal university investigation and emails from university officials obtained by The Tennessean. University officials investigated the case and issued a finding that no assault occurred and the incident was instead consensual sex. The player remains in good standing on the team. The Tennessean is not naming the football player because he has not been publicly accused and no police report was filed.

The investigation into Tennessee – one of “135 cases under investigation for issues of sexual violence at 121 post-secondary schools” – began on June 29, the OCR confirmed to the Tennessean. Other universities under investigation include Vanderbilt and Florida State. 

For more Tennessee news, visit VolQuest.com.

- - - - - - -

Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!