CU Admits Blowing Joe Tumpkin Assault Case Big Time in Bid to Save Head Coach

Joe Tumpkin's official CU Buffs portrait.
Joe Tumpkin's official CU Buffs portrait. file photo
In an extraordinary attempt to save the job of CU Boulder head football coach Mike MacIntyre, who is credited with turning around a gridiron program that's struggled since a recruiting scandal in the early 2000s, the university has suspended Chancellor Phil DiStefano for ten days and mandated that MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George make $100,000 donations to a domestic-violence fund over the mishandling of abuse charges against ex-assistant coach Joe Tumpkin.

These examples of self-censure, announced at a CU Board of Regents meeting held yesterday, June 12, are clearly intended to inoculate CU Boulder against additional fallout over the behavior of Tumpkin, who faces five felony second-degree assault counts and three misdemeanor third-degree assault beefs related to allegations from his onetime significant other, who says he abused her more than 100 times. But Peter Ginsberg, an attorney for the woman, has already filed a notice of claim to sue CU, and speaking after the unveiling of findings accessible below, he described the penalties as far too lax.

"The idea that the athletic director and head coach responsible have punishments that pale in comparison to routine infractions is simply hard to comprehend," Ginsberg told the Boulder Daily Camera. "We are just so deeply disappointed in how CU has reacted to this serious breach of loyalty to my client and the community."

The university is trying to give the appearance of transparency — although its outreach to CU Boulder alumni, parents and supporters took place at unusual times. Because my twin daughters graduated from the school, I'm on the mailing list for an organization called CU Advocates, and at 6:09 p.m. last night, during the run-up to what turned out to be the last game of the NBA finals, I received an e-mail containing links to reports from two separate investigations and statements from the likes of CU president Bruce Benson, who announced the actions. Then, at 7:52 p.m., during the first half of the contest, I received a letter from Benson that's also reproduced here.

CU Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre. - YOUTUBE FILE PHOTO
CU Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre.
YouTube file photo
As we've reported, the Tumpkin matter exploded on the national media landscape thanks to a Sports Illustrated exposé published on February 3 this year. According to the magazine, Tumpkin's accuser began trying to get in touch with MacIntyre and his wife, Trisha, with whom she was friendly, in early December 2016 and finally succeeded on December 9, eleven days before a restraining order against Tumpkin was granted.

During a subsequent conversation, the woman (identified in the piece by a pseudonym, 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 Daily Camera asked CU associate athletic director Dave Plati for comment about the allegations against the assistant coach. Only then was Tumpkin suspended, and he resigned under pressure on January 27, after he was charged with the crimes enumerated above.

Afterward, Chancellor DiStefano put out a statement in which he admitted that CU should have acted more quickly even though the incidents didn't involve a student and took place off-campus.

This acknowledgment was followed by the release of Tumpkin's arrest affidavit, which added even more detail to the horrors outlined in a request for a restraining order that had previously been made public. (Links to those documents can be found at the bottom of this post, too.) In the affidavit, the woman describes a March 2016 fight that resulted in a neighbor calling the Broomfield police after hearing a man telling a woman, "I will fucking kill you." At that time, she and Tumpkin denied having an altercation and claimed the noise had resulted from "having loud sex."

Even more disturbing is an account from mid-November, in which the woman confronted Tumpkin over "a girl he may have been seeing." At that time, she told investigators that Tumpkin choked her, shook her and pulled her across the room by her hair. He also ordered her to "get the fuck out of my house," called her "names like 'cunt' and told her that if she died, 'he would not go to her funeral.'"

Chancellor Phil DiStefano. - YOUTUBE FILE PHOTO
Chancellor Phil DiStefano.
YouTube file photo
Another passage: "I asked [deleted] to tell me how many times she was physically assaulted by Joe and she said in excess of 100 times. She told me she was choked in excess of 100 times and that on at least three occasions she had trouble breathing. In addition to these incidents, she claims that he placed a cellular phone against her jaw causing an injury to a tooth that she had just undergone an implant on. The implant later failed and she is missing a tooth and must wait several months for the area to completely heal before a replacement implant can be inserted. She also advised that he would grab her face and place his face near hers and sneer at her, repeating, 'So you want to leave? So you want to leave?'"

Accounts like these created an optics problem for CU when it came to MacIntyre's contract extension. The agreement had been put forward in the afterglow of the Buffs' best season in years and MacIntyre being named the Home Depot Coach of the Year.

As a result, CU Boulder spokesman Ken McConnellogue told us in February, "The chancellor made the decision both to postpone the regents' review in voting on the contract and to have an inquiry into the whole situation. We're looking at, did we violate any of our policies, and also, do we need to tweak, change, improve any of our policies or procedures. How we handled this particular issue is one part of it, but we also want to look at how we operate more broadly."

The final report makes it clear that there was plenty of blame to go around — but as noted by former senator Ken Salazar, who was retained by the CU Board of Regents to deal with the controversy, the mistakes weren't determined to be malicious.

The suspension of DiStefano is certainly an attention-getter, as well as an indication of just how much CU Boulder values what MacIntyre has done for the CU Buffs football squad. But the question posed by the headline of our first post on this subject — "Will Joe Tumpkin Domestic Abuse Case Become Next CU Football Scandal?" — has not yet been completely resolved.

Click to access public documents and official statements about the Tumpkin findings, as provided by CU Boulder, as well as the request for a restraining order and the arrest affidavit.

Joe Tumpkin during his time at Central Michigan University. - YOUTUBE FILE PHOTO
Joe Tumpkin during his time at Central Michigan University.
YouTube file photo
Here's the letter from President Benson:

June 12, 2017

The University of Colorado has treated the issue related to former Coach Joe Tumpkin with the seriousness and deliberation it demands. We have engaged nationally recognized experts to help determine what happened and advise us on what we should do about it.

We are releasing a full, final report from Cozen O’Connor with complete findings. We are also releasing a full, final report from WilmerHale that summarizes the processes we have followed and includes the university’s final determinations and steps we will take going forward.

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.

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.

The board and I continue to have confidence in the chancellor, athletic director and the coach as leaders of their respective areas and representatives of the university. We are counting on them to be an important part of the solution, and I will be working with them closely as president of the university.

In consultation with the board, I have determined that the following remedial measures be imposed:

• A 10-day suspension without pay for Chancellor DiStefano that the chancellor proposed and that the board and I deemed appropriate and accepted.
• The board, athletic director Rick George and I have agreed that AD George will personally contribute $100,000 to a fund at CU Boulder addressing domestic violence issues.
• The board, head football coach Mike MacIntyre and I have agreed that Coach MacIntyre will personally contribute $100,000 to be divided between a fund at CU Boulder and a community organization addressing domestic violence issues.
• I am issuing letters of reprimand and expectation to the chancellor, athletic director, and football coach.
• I am directing CU to conduct an immediate review of the relevant policies and training to make them clear, more precise and more effective.
• I am directing immediate in-person training for Title IX and domestic violence for the chancellor, athletic director and coaches, as well as for me and my executive staff.
• I am directing university counsel to ensure all long-term employee contracts have necessary language with regard to reporting obligations, particularly related to domestic violence and sexual misconduct.
• I am directing that necessary structural changes be made on all our campuses to ensure greater coordination and collaboration regarding university obligations and standards, particularly those related to Title IX and intimate partner violence. We must break down silos on our campuses.
• Given the high profile of the athletic department, I am directing structural changes to ensure deeper engagement with OIEC, university counsel and strategic communications.
• The Intercollegiate Athletics department will bear the costs of the inquiry.
• I am directing that all the individuals and units involved in the actions above report back to me by August 1 on progress.

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.

We will continue to do what’s necessary to improve in this vital area. Our most important asset is the integrity of the university, and it will remain the North Star that guides us in all we do.

For feedback contact [email protected]

Bruce Benson
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