Texas Tech football coach defends his role in Utah State sexual assault scandal

Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Matt Wells looks on before the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson on Sept. 14, 2019.
Texas Tech Red Raiders head coach Matt Wells looks on before the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson on Sept. 14, 2019.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports via REUTERS

Texas Tech University football coach Matt Wells is pushing back on a lawsuit alleging he failed to investigate a player accused of repeated sexual assaults at Utah State University while Wells served as coach there.

Wells, who joined Tech last year, is not named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 1 against Utah State. Wells was Utah State’s head football coach from 2013 to 2018.

“While I followed all Utah State procedures, I am deeply saddened for the hurt suffered by these women,” Wells said in a statement Friday. He added that it was another university office’s responsibility to investigate and that it would have been “completely wrong for me to have done so.”

The lawsuit, first reported on by the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Daily Beast, alleges the university did not investigate multiple reports about the player Torrey Green, who was found guilty of sexually assaulting six women in January and is now serving a prison term of at least 26 years.

The lawsuit was brought by a woman who attended Utah State, and says she was raped by Green in August 2015. She told the university about the assault in October 2016, the complaint alleges. The Texas Tribune does not typically name sexual assault victims. Two other women who say Green sexually assaulted them have also sued Utah State.

Between 2013 and 2015, at least three reports alleging sexual assault committed by Green were sent to the university’s Title IX office, which enforces non-discrimination and sexual misconduct policies, according to the lawsuit.

Wells, then head football coach at Utah State, had a meeting with Green and another university official in January 2016, according to the lawsuit. Wells and the other official “questioned Green about allegations of rape.” But the accusations were not investigated and Green was not penalized, according to the lawsuit.

He was “never disciplined, was never removed from campus… and was permitted to graduated in May of 2016,” the lawsuit says. He signed an NFL contract with the Atlanta Falcons in April of that year, but was released when the assault allegations came to light, according to the lawsuit.

Wells said in his statement that Green “had already finished his senior season in 2015.”

“I am well aware that I have a responsibility to report any possible Title IX issues. It is the Title IX Office’s responsibility to investigate an allegation, so it would have been completely wrong for me to have done so,” Wells said.

Texas Tech University officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An excerpt of the complaint, filed Nov. 1.
An excerpt of the complaint, filed Nov. 1.

A Utah State spokesperson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in a statement issued to other news organizations, the university both admitted to mistakes and cast doubt on the merits of the lawsuit.

“USU has publicly acknowledged it fell short in several ways in addressing sexual assaults on campus in the Torrey Green case, and we are continuing to address those university-wide systemic problems… This lawsuit, however, as filed, relies on countless incorrect assumptions, misrepresents how universities are able to address sexual assaults, and contains a number of outright factual errors and multiple timeline errors,” the university told other media outlets.

Utah State initiated a third-party investigation of how it handled sexual violence reports that found “egregious flaws” stemming in part from inadequate policies and employee training, the lawsuit says. The university said in 2016 it would make changes based on the inquiry’s recommendations.