Will Joe Tumpkin Domestic Abuse Case Become Next CU Football Scandal?

Joe Tumpkin's official CU Buffs portrait. Additional images and more below.
Joe Tumpkin's official CU Buffs portrait. Additional images and more below.

On February 9, former University of Colorado Boulder football team defensive coach Joe Tumpkin is scheduled to appear in court in Adams County for a preliminary hearing related to multiple counts of assault related to domestic-violence accusations. But thanks to an exposé in Sports Illustrated, CU Boulder is already on trial in the court of public opinion over its handling of the Tumpkin matter. The fallout is capable of undermining a program that took more than a decade to recover from a recruiting scandal whose ripples recently revealed a past sex-assault investigation targeting new Broncos head football coach (and former CU Boulder assistant coach) Vance Joseph.

The men in the crossfire this time around are CU head coach Mike MacIntyre, athletic director Rick George and chancellor Phil DiStefano, all of whom knew about the domestic-abuse accusations made against Tumpkin weeks before they took action — first suspending him and later asking for his resignation.

The delay recalls the case of Penn State's Joe Paterno, a coaching giant whose legacy was permanently marred when he was accused of having known about child sex-abuse allegations against one of his assistants, Jerry Sandusky, well in advance of the incidents becoming public. Granted, the time periods in the cases are vastly different; a report from last year maintains that victims first reached out to Paterno in 1976, yet Sandusky wasn't indicted until 2011. Still, the Penn State example should have informed CU about the risks inherent in a failure to act immediately in such situations. Instead, university officials waited for a month — a mistake that DiStefano acknowledges in an essay about "lessons learned" that's on view below.

It's too soon to know if DiStefano's mea culpa will inoculate CU from further censure. But the information about Tumpkin that's emerged thus far is certainly damning.

Joe Tumpkin during his time at Central Michigan University.
Joe Tumpkin during his time at Central Michigan University.

Toward the bottom of this post, we've also shared Tumpkin's CU bio, which remains online at this writing, and it's certainly impressive. Beginning in 1994, he made a steady climb up the coaching ranks, with gigs at numerous prominent universities, including Central Michigan, where he worked prior to coming to CU in 2015 as a safeties coach. But his behavior as described in a request for a restraining order filed by his significant other (called "Jane" in the Sports Illustrated piece) is absolutely appalling.

The restraining order is also shared below — but here's an excerpt, in which Jane writes about her initial victimization:

The 1st time Joe assaulted me was Feb. 27, 2015 at the Renaissance Hotel. Joe grabbed me & threw me against the wall. He also threw me on the bed when I tried to leave. He wouldn't let me leave. I had bruises on both wrists and forearms, as well as my legs. When Joe moved to the [deleted] hotel to live, similar incidents occurred in March 2015. Then Joe assaulted me in Catania from March 2015 through Nov. 20, 2016. I flew to visit Joe every 10 days between Feb. 2015 to June 2015. I lived with Joe the entire summer of 2015 in Broomfield. The assaults intensified in duration and severity.

The document also includes Jane's account of her last alleged incident of abuse at Tumpkin's hands:

I agreed to come to Colorado for the CU vs. Washington State football game. He came home around midnight intoxicated on that Friday night. When I tried to end our relationship, he became angry and started jabbing his finger in my face. He then pinned me against the wall & choked me. The night after the game, he sat on my back & pulled me back by the hair. He threw me into the wall, on the ground & choked me. He finally pulled me out of the leather chair by the roots of my hair & dragged me across the dining room to the door where he told me to "get the fuck out."

The restraining order was granted on December 20, 2016. However, according to the Sports Illustrated piece — a detailed and shocking account well worth reading — Jane began trying to reach coach MacIntyre and his wife, Trisha, early that month and finally succeeded on December 9.

CU Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre.
CU Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre.

During a subsequent conversation, Jane told the SI reporter that MacIntyre was kind and solicitous. Yet Tumpkin remained on the CU payroll until January 6, when a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera reached out to CU associate athletic director Dave Plati for comment about the allegations against Tumpkin. Only then was Tumpkin suspended, and he resigned under pressure on January 27, after he was charged with five counts of second-degree (felony) assault and three counts of third-degree (misdemeanor) assault.

Thus far, MacIntyre, who last season was named Home Depot Coach of the Year for his successful efforts turning around the Buffs after a decade-plus of mediocrity, hasn't commented publicly about the case. Instead, DiStefano is speaking for the university, and while he takes issue with some aspects of the Sports Illustrated story, claiming that SI chose not to share the university's timeline of events and inaccurately claimed that Tumpkin received a promotion before being shown the door, he admits that CU should have acted more quickly even though the incidents didn't involve a student and took place off-campus.

Right now, Tumpkin is free on a $10,000 bond; he's being tracked by GPS. But his court appearance on Thursday will no doubt receive heavy media coverage and is likely to spur more questions about the CU delay. Given that the aforementioned recruiting scandal, recapped in our post about allegations that Broncos coach Joseph had rubbed his erect penis against a sleeping woman without her permission while working for the university, led to the dismissal of another successful coach, Gary Barnett, MacIntyre shouldn't assume that the recent upturn in CU's football fortunes will guarantee that he'll emerge from this latest embarrassment repercussion-free.

Continue to read the aforementioned request for a restraining order against Tumpkin, followed by his CU bio and chancellor DiStefano's reaction to the Sports Illustrated article.

Joe Tumpkin's CUBuffs.com bio:

Joe Tumpkin is in his second season as an assistant coach at Colorado, joining the CU staff on February 5, 2015 after serving as the defensive coordinator the previous five years at Central Michigan University. He coaches the safeties and teams with Charles Clark to help coach the nickel position.

Tumpkin, 45, helped coach Colorado to the second-best passing defense in the Pac-12 in 2015, allowing just 218.2 yards per game, which also ranked 59th nationally. His safeties intercepted seven passes and batted down another 15.

He oversaw a Central Michigan defense in 2014 that finished 29th in the nation, as the Chippewas posted a 7-6 record in allowing 355 yards per game. He also coached the secondary at CMU.

His CMU teams over five years had a reputation for creating turnovers, effective pass rushes (eight different players had interceptions in 2012) and successful halftime adjustments. In the wildest bowl game of the ’14 season – the Bahamas Bowl where Western Kentucky nipped CMU, 49-48, his halftime changes against one of the nation’s most prolific offenses limited WKU to just seven points and 151 yards after intermission. Ten players earned All-Mid-American Conference honors during his time there, where he worked for head coach Dan Enos.

CMU’s other bowl game during his time in Mount Pleasant was in 2012, also against Western Kentucky in the Little Caesar’s Bowl; the Chippewas won that one, 24-21. That year, he coached Jim Thorpe Award candidate Jahleel Addae, a first-team All-MAC performer the previous season under his tutelage, the first CMU defensive back to earn first-team all-league honors in a decade. He went on to play professionally with the San Diego Chargers.

Prior to his time at Central Michigan, he coached the linebackers for two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, where he coached a pair of first-team All-Big East performers in Scott McKillop (2008) and Adam Gunn (2009). McKillop, a middle linebacker, was also a first-team All-American and the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year; he had 137 tackles (82 solo, third in the nation) with 18 for losses and went on to play with San Francisco (who drafted him in the fifth round in 2009) and Buffalo in the NFL. At Pitt, he was an assistant under head coach Dave Wannstedt.

Pitt was 9-4 in 2008, losing to Oregon State in the Sun Bowl in the lowest scoring postseason game in the modern era (3-0), and the Panthers were 10-3 in 2009, defeating North Carolina, 19-17, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Tumpkin coached the linebackers at Southern Methodist under head coach Phil Bennett for three seasons (2005-07), tutoring second-team All-Conference USA selection Reggie Carrington. (Bennett moved on to Pittsburgh as its defensive coordinator, where he reunited with Tumpkin for the 2008 season.)

During his time at SMU, he earned one of the prestigious NFL minority coaching fellowships with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which provided him the opportunity to work training camp with the Buccaneers’ coaching staff ahead of the 2007 season.

He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant working with the linebackers at Lakeland College in 1994, and stops during his career before reaching the Division I-A (FBS) level included Northern Michigan (graduate assistant, defensive line), Defiance College (linebackers coach), Western Michigan (1997, graduate assistant, tight ends), Southern Illinois (1998-99, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator), a second stint at Lakeland (2000-01, defensive coordinator) and Sam Houston State (2002-04, coaching linebackers the first two seasons and then secondary in his final year there, when SHSU were co-Southland Conference champions and advanced to the I-AA playoffs, at one point ascending to No. 3 in the national rankings).

At Southern Illinois, he coached eventual NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Bart Scott, who spent 11 years in the professional ranks with Baltimore and the New York Jets. While he was at Sam Houston State, he was instrumental in the development of linebackers Paul Donelson, an All-American and All-Southland performer, and T.J. Dibble, a two-time all-conference selection.

Tumpkin graduated in 1994 from Michigan Tech, earning a Bachelor's degree in Scientific and Technical Communications. He was a four-year letterman and a captain his senior year of the Huskies' football team for coach Bernie Anderson. A four-year starter at nose guard, he had 136 career tackles, including 12 for losses and three quarterback sacks, along with 12 passes broken up, two fumble recoveries and an interception. He started all 40 games in his career in helping Michigan Tech to a 27-13 record.

He was born February 16, 1971 in Detroit, Mich., and graduated from Hialeah High School (Miami Lakes, Fla.), where he lettered in football and wrestling. Among his hobbies are reading, cooking and weightlifting.

RECORD—He has coached in 136 Division I-A (FBS) games as a full-time coach, including four bowl games (2008 Sun, 2009 Meineke Car Care, 2012 Little Caesar’s, 2014 Bahamas).

COACHING EXPERIENCE
1994 Lakeland College Graduate Assistant (Linebackers)
1995 Northern Michigan Graduate Assistant (Defensive Line)
1996 Defiance College Linebackers
1997 Western Michigan Graduate Assistant (Tight Ends)
1998-99 Southern Illinois Linebackers/Recruiting Coordinator
2000-01 Lakeland College Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
2002-04 Sam Houston State Linebackers/Secondary
2005-07 SMU Linebackers
2007 Tampa Bay (NFL) Minority Internship (Training Camp)
2008-09 Pittsburgh Linebackers
2010-14 Central Michigan Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
2015- Colorado Safeties

CU chancellor Phil DiStefano.
CU chancellor Phil DiStefano.

Chancellor's Corner: Lessons learned from handling of Tumpkin domestic violence case

[Friday], Sports Illustrated published an article on domestic violence allegations against former assistant football coach Joe Tumpkin. First, Head Coach Mike MacIntyre, Athletic Director Rick George and I want to apologize to the victim in this case, as well as to her son. She should have received an immediate response from the university pertaining to the actions we might take as well as expressing concern for her safety and any support she needed to deal with repercussions of the trauma she suffered.

My staff provided the reporter a full timeline of what occurred, but Sports Illustrated chose not to publish key elements of it. So let me be clear on what happened.

In mid-December, Joe Tumpkin’s ex-girlfriend notified Coach MacIntyre of an allegation of physical assault. MacIntyre immediately informed George. I learned of these allegations shortly thereafter. At that time, we believed that it was premature to take personnel action because there was no restraining order, criminal charges, civil action or other documentation of the allegation. Tumpkin signed and acknowledged receipt for the temporary restraining order on Dec. 30, according to court records. But no athletic department officials nor university administrators saw a copy of it until the afternoon of Jan. 6, shortly after a Boulder Daily Camera reporter informed the athletic department of the filing and was seeking comment.

Less than two hours after seeing court documentation, George indefinitely suspended Tumpkin from his coaching duties. He was later asked to resign and did so on Jan. 27. Broomfield police filed criminal charges against Tumpkin on Jan. 31. Sports Illustrated asked us if university funds are being used for Tumpkin’s defense counsel. They are not. I should also note that Sports Illustrated incorrectly reported that Tumpkin received a promotion to interim defensive coordinator ahead of the Alamo Bowl. Tumpkin was not promoted nor did he receive any adjustment in salary or title.

I have consulted with OIEC on the reporting obligations in this case, where it involved a complainant who was not a student, faculty or staff member and where the alleged abuse did not occur on campus. This was certainly a confusing case as to our reporting requirements under our policy. We have a strong policy on domestic violence and sexual misconduct that covers the campus.

However, we regret that as soon as each of us knew of the allegations of domestic violence, written evidence or not, we did not report them to our office of Institutional Equity and Compliance. I am now making it clear to all CU Boulder mandatory reporters that even when they become aware of possible domestic abuse that does not involve a person affiliated with the campus, I want them to err on the side of reporting it to OIEC. In hindsight, we should have done so here.

We have made a concerted effort in recent years to strengthen our enforcement of Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act and our obligations under those statutes. We have also strengthened services to support victims of sexual misconduct and other abuse and emphasized the importance of reporting. Clearly we need to do more to train our community to report issues of domestic and dating violence at the same level that they would report issues of sexual assault.

It is important for our community to know that I take our shortfalls in this instance seriously and we need to do better to represent our values.

Philip P. DiStefano,
Chancellor


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