Colorado punishes officials, including Mike MacIntyre, for handling of abuse allegation

Sam Cooper
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

An independent investigation found that several Colorado officials, including head coach Mike MacIntyre, made mistakes in their handling of the domestic abuse allegations against former Buffs assistant coach Joe Tumpkin.

However, the investigation, which was conducted by two law firms, concluded there was no intent to cover up the abuse claims. Specifically, it was determined that there were failings in the way the university reported the allegations (including to law enforcement) and supervised Tumpkin, who served as CU’s safeties coach for the past two seasons.

As a result, Colorado president Bruce Benson announced that chancellor Phil DiStefano will serve a 10-day suspension while Buffs athletic director Rick George and MacIntyre will each make $100,000 donations to funds “addressing domestic violence issues.” All three will receive letters of reprimand and further training as well.

(The punishments are explained in further detail here.)

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“We said at the outset of this matter that we didn’t handle it as we should have, particularly in how we communicated with Tumpkin’s former partner and how we reported the matter internally. We will own our mistakes and own the solutions,” Benson said in a statement (all university statements related to the Tumpkin matter can be viewed here).

“As a result of this process, we have also identified policy and training gaps we need to fix. We are addressing those gaps without delay and with determination to set a higher standard, because CU cannot and will not tolerate domestic violence or any form of sexual misconduct. The leaders of the campus, athletic department and football program are accountable in their leadership roles. There are consequences for mistakes, and they are taking responsibility for them.

“I know some will say these remedial measures and changes go too far; others will say they do not go far enough. Not everybody will be happy. The board and I believe that the actions are appropriate and necessary and that the results of this inquiry will make us a better university. We aim to be a national leader in responding to sexual misconduct and intimate partner violence and this experience will help us achieve that.”

Per the Denver Post, former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, a partner at one of the firms that completed the investigation, said DiStefano, George and MacIntyre made “mistakes,” but did not show “bad intent.”

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Tumpkin is facing eight charges, including five felonies, for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend on a number of occasions between February 2015 and November 2016. The woman detailed the ordeal to Sports Illustrated and said that CU officials were aware Tumpkin had been accused of abuse. The woman said she spoke to MacIntyre on the phone for more than 30 minutes on Dec. 9. Nonetheless, Tumpkin was elevated to acting defensive coordinator and was given play-calling duties for the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 after Jim Leavitt left CU for Oregon.

In a letter released in February after Tumpkin was formally charged and had stepped down from his position, MacIntyre (who informed George after hearing from the woman) explained that Tumpkin called plays in the bowl game “because, at the time of the decision, there was no police report or legal complaint.” He added that the decision was “approved by (his) superiors.”

A restraining order was filed against Tumpkin by his accuser on Dec. 20 and made public on Jan. 6 after it was reported by the Boulder Daily Camera. Three days later, on Jan. 9, Tumpkin was indefinitely suspended. Tumpkin subsequently resigned Jan. 27 and was formally charged on Jan. 31.

The report from law firm Cozen O’Connor, which includes attorneys who investigated Baylor while working for Pepper Hamilton, concluded that after learning of the alleged abuse “it was incumbent on MacIntyre, then George, and ultimately DiStefano to take steps, in consultation with appropriate campus experts, to determine if Tumpkin posed a risk of harm to student or campus safety and to determine what, if any action, could or should be taken with respect to Tumpkin’s continued employment at the University.”

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From the Cozen O’Connor report (which can be read in full here):

Given the underlying subject matter, we do not expect MacIntyre, George or DiStefano to have conducted their own factual inquiry, but rather, to ensure that the report was shared with the appropriate campus officials, including University Counsel, Human Resources, or as detailed above, OIEC (Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance), to allow for a coordinated and informed fact gathering and institutional response. Instead of taking proactive steps to seek additional information, however, the parties’ individual and collective actions harbored, siloed, and fragmented the known information.

Information was shared orally by MacIntyre with George, and by George with DiStefano, which led to the dilution of facts at each juncture and created the conditions for the diffusion of responsibility. At no time did all of the parties gather together to triage the available facts, develop a plan to gather additional facts or consult with available University resources. Instead each party maintained his own account and relied upon oral conversations without written documentation that could supplement and ensure accurate memories and effective and coordinated communication.

As outlined in the factual chronology, the quantity and quality of the information was diluted each time it was repeated, and each individual was free to process and recall information from their own perspective. As an example, MacIntyre is confident that he told George that the abuse occurred over a period of time; George denied that he knew about more than one incident. And as George elevated the information, it continued to narrow.

Earlier this month, Tumpkin’s accuser filed a lawsuit against the university. In the suit, she is seeking $5,000 a day in damages covering the timeframe of the alleged abuse. That sum would surpass $3.5 million.

In January, MacIntyre signed a contract extension worth over $16 million that goes through 2021, but the school’s regents delayed approval of the deal until the completion of the Tumpkin investigation. A school spokesman told the Denver Post that the deal is “expected to finally be approved” later this week.

MacIntyre went a combined 10-27 (2-25 Pac-12) in his first three seasons at Colorado before the team broke through in 2016 with 10 wins and a Pac-12 South title.

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