Colorado Buffaloes suspend Phil DiStefano, reprimand Mike MacIntyre, Rick George
University of Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano has been suspended 10 days without pay, and football coach Mike MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George both have been reprimanded for mishandling their responses to allegations of domestic abuse against former Buffaloes assistant coach Joe Tumpkin.
Colorado’s board of regents and university system president Bruce Benson announced the sanctions Monday after releasing the findings of a school-commissioned investigation by the WilmerHale law firm. The probe determined that DiStefano, MacIntyre and George did not intentionally cover up the information they received or break the law, but “mistakes were made,” said Ken Salazar, the former U.S. senator and interior secretary who advised the school during its investigation.
“I wish to say again that I sincerely regret that I did not immediately contact the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance upon learning of the allegations of domestic violence,” said DiStefano, who recommended his own punishment of the 10-day suspension. “Rather than trying to determine for myself if her complaint fell within our jurisdiction, I should have contacted our campus experts, who would have made sure that she received an immediate response from the university.”
Both MacIntyre and George must contribute $100,000 to organizations that address domestic violence. They both also received a letter of reprimand and will undergo Title IX and domestic violence awareness training.
“Some will say these disciplinary actions go too far. Some will say they don’t go far enough. Not everyone will be happy,” Benson said during a news conference at the regents’ meeting in Denver.
The school also released an 82-page report outlining the facts of the Tumpkin case prepared by Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor.
In the Cozen O’Connor report, DiStefano stated that he did not report the allegations because he “reviewed university policy and concluded that there was no Title IX jurisdiction because, as he understood the allegations, the incident occurred off campus in Tumpkin’s apartment in Broomfield, the complainant was not a university affiliate and was living out of state, and there was no threat to campus.”
“As I have stated since January, I take full responsibility for my actions, and as the director of athletics, I hold myself to a high standard of conduct,” George said in a statement. “I am fully committed to being part of the solutions that the campus will implement over the coming weeks and months. We will make any necessary changes and support a culture of values and respect and integrity. We must do better — and we will.”
According the report, on Dec. 9, Tumpkin’s ex-girlfriend of three years notified MacIntyre and told him that Tumpkin had physically abused her throughout much of their relationship. MacIntyre immediately reached out to George and made contact with him Dec. 10 to inform him of the woman’s claims. George informed DiStefano on Dec. 11, according to the report. MacIntyre said he had a second conversation with the woman on Dec. 10, in which he told her he had reported the claims.
The WilmerHale probe concluded that DiStefano, MacIntyre and George should have known they had an obligation to immediately report the allegations against Tumpkin to the school’s Title IX coordinator and Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance. Tumpkin, the Buffaloes safeties coach the past two seasons, continued to coach and called defensive plays during the team’s Dec. 29 loss to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. George ultimately approved Tumpkin’s coaching in the bowl game, despite knowing about the allegations against him, according to the WilmerHale report.
“This has been a difficult time for the university community, and particularly for the woman who brought this to my attention,” MacIntyre said. “When she reached out to me, my first concern — which I shared with her — was for her safety. I immediately reported to the athletic director for direction. All of us involved have learned that we have additional reporting responsibilities, and we will follow those procedures in the future. I had never been in a situation where one of my coaches was accused of abusing a spouse or partner. But as the regents and President Benson recognized, I never acted in bad faith.”
Colorado didn’t suspend Tumpkin and place him on administrative leave until Jan. 6, when MacIntyre and George learned that a judge had issued a temporary restraining order against the assistant coach at the request of his ex-girlfriend, the school said. Tumpkin resigned Jan. 27.
“We are deeply disappointed in how cavalierly the university viewed the appropriate discipline,” Peter Ginsberg, the attorney representing Tumpkin’s ex-girlfriend, told ESPN after reviewing the report. “The university … chose to allow the athletic director and the head coach to essentially go unpunished. It’s an unfortunate reflection on the university’s priorities.”
Ginsberg notified the university in a May 17 claim that he believes it is liable for its role in the abuse the woman endured for nearly two years. In the claim, provided to ESPN by the university, Ginsberg wrote that “university personnel, including athletic director George and coach MacIntyre, were not adequately trained to report and address domestic abuse issues, physical abuse issues or substance abuse issues, nor were they adequately supervised.” Ginsberg’s claim alleges that MacIntyre blocked calls and text messages from the woman after the initial Dec. 9 conversation.
The claim also states that Tumpkin’s supervisors knew about the abuse much earlier than in December. The woman is seeking $5,000 per day in damages from Feb. 27, 2015, when Tumpkin allegedly began abusing her at a Boulder hotel provided to him as temporary lodging by the university, until Tumpkin’s resignation on Jan. 27, 2017. Colorado state law requires those planning to sue the university to first send a notice and state the amount of damages they are seeking. The university has until Aug. 15 to respond.
“For the athletic director and the head coach essentially to promote Tumpkin for a bowl game when they knew they had on their staff an abuser speaks for itself,” Ginsberg said Monday. “The idea that they didn’t know what to do either reflects extremely poorly on their own ethics or is a disappointing rationalization.”
Ginsberg praised the thoroughness of the external investigations into the Tumpkin situation but said, “In light of what happened today, my client feels betrayed and devastated.”
MacIntyre recalled that he told the complainant “this is something I have to report” and he had to “turn it in.” He said he was numb listening to her, trying to wrap his mind around it and thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening because I had not seen anything that would make me feel like [Tumpkin] would do this.”
MacIntyre recalled the complainant told him that she did not want him to turn it in and that she would “deny it, deny any reports.” MacIntyre understood the complainant wanted Tumpkin to get help and she “in no way shape or form wanted me to let anybody else know” because she didn’t want Tumpkin to get in trouble. MacIntyre said “but no way could I be put in the box of not reporting it.”
Tumpkin faces five felony counts of second-degree assault and three misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault in a domestic violence case, the district attorney for Adams and Broomfield counties in Colorado announced Jan. 31. A preliminary hearing to help determine if the case will proceed is scheduled for June 22, according to a spokeswoman for the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura contributed to this report.