Report: Texts, bold proposition led to coach's firing

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 15, 2016 8:19 PM

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Alleged sexual harassment that led to the firing of a University of California, Berkeley assistant basketball coach involved a female journalist who was sent sexual innuendo-filled text messages and whom the coach acknowledged "trying to trick" into his apartment after a game, according to an investigative report released Tuesday.

Written findings from the university's seven-month investigation of former assistant men's basketball coach Yann Hufnagel show the inquiry was opened after the reporter sent an email detailing the unwelcome advances to head coach Cuonzo Martin, with whom she had communicated her concerns by phone six weeks earlier.

The allegations included an encounter with Hufnagel in the parking garage of his apartment building a year ago.

The woman told campus investigators she met Hufnagel at a downtown Berkeley bar after a game, agreed to give him a ride home because he said he was too drunk to drive, and felt frightened when he refused to let her out of the remote-controlled garage as she spurned his increasingly explicit overtures.

"Are you thinking I'm going to have sex with you?" she recalled asking Hufnagel, who was her main source for team news.

"Yes," he responded, the report states.

"Not going to happen ... You and I are professional colleagues ... Not interested in you," the woman said she replied.

The names of the reporter and the news organization she worked for were blacked-out from the findings made public Tuesday, a day after the investigation was completed and Martin moved to fire the 33-year-old Hufnagel.

During his interview with the investigators from UC Berkeley's Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, Hufnagel disputed several details of the woman's account.

He said he didn't drink at the bar that night and that he drove her to his building garage, where he planned to park on the top of a double-decker spot.

"With all candor, I was trying to trick her into going upstairs," Hufnagel said, according to the report.

He told investigators he asked her several times to go up to his apartment then drove her back to her car when she declined. After that, he realized the reporter was "a total ditz" and "not a good fit," the report states.

The report states that Hufnagel acknowledged wanting to have sex with the woman but did not think his behavior was inappropriate because she did not work for the university. He characterized their relationship as flirtatious and said she never had given him any indication the "locker room" texts he sent her were unwelcome.

The journalist told investigators she felt trapped into tolerating Hufnagel's behavior over a period of six months because she relied on him as her "singular" source of news about Cal's basketball program.

After she rebuffed him, she said he stopped providing her with information and she was let go from her reporting assignment.

Hufnagel is at least the fourth UC Berkeley employee in the last year to face sexual harassment allegations that were substantiated during campus investigations. He didn't reply to an email from The Associated Press on Tuesday seeking comment.

Posts on Facebook and Twitter pages that appear to belong to Hufnagel say the charges are unfounded and that he planned on being cleared.

"My time to exonerate myself of a fruitless claim by a reporter will come," posts on both sites said Monday.

UC spokesman Dan Mogulof said Hufnagel would be paid until the termination proceedings initiated Monday are completed.

Hufnagel's contract gives him eight days to respond to the move and the firing will not be final if he chooses to contest it, Mogulof said.