U. Iowa leader briefs regents on athletics review

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2012 5:57 PM
U. Iowa leader briefs regents on athletics review

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — University of Iowa President Sally Mason privately briefed leaders of the school's governing board Thursday as she continues to review the handling of an athletics department official who resigned after being accused of sexual harassment for years.

An Iowa Board of Regents official confirmed that Mason met with three members to discuss the case of Peter Gray, who resigned last week after an internal investigation accused him of improperly touching student-athletes and a range of other inappropriate conduct.

Regents had no comment after the meeting, which came a day after records showed that Gray had been fired from a previous job at Coastal Carolina University for poor performance before Iowa rehired him in 2002.

University spokesman Tom Moore said he expected the school to release more information about its review "in the near future."

From 1993 to 1995 and again from 2002 until last week, the 59-year-old Gray worked in Iowa's athletics student services and was most recently in charge of monitoring the academic progression of student-athletes.

Employees told investigators from the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity that Gray's improper touching, which included shoulder massages and hugging, continued throughout both employment terms despite complaints from coworkers, coaches and at least one athlete.

Investigators said Gray had traded football tickets for nude photographs with someone outside the university and had inappropriate photographs on his work computer, including a screen saver of the men's swimming team and individuals engaged in sex acts with stuffed animals or toys. Gray is not under criminal investigation.

The case raises questions about why Gray was rehired, what prompted the university to take action now, and whether earlier complaints were effectively addressed. Critics have also wondered why Gray was allowed to resign rather than be fired and whether the university wanted to keep the matter quiet since it only became public because the Iowa City Press-Citizen obtained the confidential investigation report.

Gray, meanwhile, has picked up support from some former athletes who credit him for working long hours to help them academically.

"He's probably the reason that I graduated," said former Iowa swimmer Seth Tweedy, who was on the team from 2002 to 2007. "It breaks my heart to see him not being able to do what he loves, because he was the best at what he did."

Tweedy said he did not believe the allegations against Gray and questioned whether they were politically motivated.

Mason told KGAN-TV in an interview Wednesday that she would use the meeting with regents to lay out "a really sound strategy for going forward." She told the station, in her first interview on the case, that school officials were working quickly to learn what happened and would take appropriate actions.

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"Believe me, I'm as impatient as everyone else in terms of understanding the full scope of what we're dealing with here and understanding all the facts so that we can make the best decisions possible," she said.

History professor Jeffrey Cox, chair of a university oversight subcommittee on academic achievement in athletics, praised Mason's approach.

"I think President Mason is doing the right thing here by trying to make sure she has all the information," he said. "It would really be a terrible mistake to act prematurely in various ways on this until she knows exactly what happened and when."

In a statement Thursday, Conway, S.C.-based Coastal Carolina confirmed Gray was fired in 1999 after less than a year as its director of retention and advisement because of "unsatisfactory work results." The school's review found no evidence that Gray committed misconduct.

Indiana University also confirmed Thursday that Gray worked as an athletics department advisor from 1999 until 2002. A spokesman said the school was still checking into the circumstances of Gray's departure and work history.

The University of Mississippi said Wednesday that Gray was the athletic department's director of academic support from 1995 until he resigned in 1998.