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UI president: Volleyball probe is 'a top priority'

Jan. 20—University of Idaho President Scott Green wrote in a statement released Friday that the university has expanded the scope of its investigation into its head volleyball coach to include climate and culture issues, "which are generally not covered by law but are deeply important to our community."

Coach Chris Gonzalez is facing allegations of physical and emotional abuse of his players over the past two seasons.

The UI opened an investigation into Gonzalez following the conclusion of the team's season Nov. 17, per request of the students who asked the university to investigate the claims.

Green said in his statement that he will not give interviews or future public comments about the situation until the end of the investigation. The title of the email in which the statement came was titled "Volleyball Investigation Is a Top Priority."

"Once completed, the report will be delivered to me," he said. "It will contain the claims made and relevant facts as determined by the statements of the claimants, witnesses and the defendant. I will then determine what actions, if any, need to be taken."

Green said the statement he released Friday is meant to address concerns that the UI has not taken action against Gonzalez.

"Our primary goal remains to uphold our values and the principles of an inclusive, supportive and nurturing learning environment that all our students rightfully deserve," Green said. "We are committed to a timely, but fair and thorough investigation."

Spokesman-Review reported this week that several current or former Idaho players, six parents and three university employees say Gonzalez has bullied and physically, verbally and emotionally abused Vandal players, pressured them to play or practice while injured, and denied athletes food throughout his two seasons at UI.

On Thursday, eight players chose to participate in a practice that Gonzalez was present for. Green wrote in his statement that three opted out of practice.

The 18-player team has lost six players who transferred, including one who was among those that made accusations against the coach.

Green stated any player can opt out of practices while the investigation is ongoing. He said there will be no punitive response for their decision to not attend practice. Their scholarships will also remain secure throughout the investigation.

A case manager from the Office of the Dean of Students has been assigned to attend and monitor all team activities where the coaches are present, or when requested by an athlete.

Green said a psychologist from the Counseling and Mental Health Center is assigned to work with student athletes.

The athletes were provided contact information to university ombuds who can provide confidential assistance to the players, Green said.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.