Former Auburn softball player alleges abuse, sexual harassment in 14-page complaint
A former Auburn softball player sent a 14-page complaint alleging abusive treatment by the Tigers coaching staff, a pattern of sexual harassment and concerns about administrative cover-up to school officials and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey a month before the abrupt retirement Wednesday of head coach Clint Myers.
The letter, sent by Milwaukee attorney Martin Greenberg on behalf of former player Alexa Nemeth, came weeks after Nemeth filed a Title IX sexual discrimination complaint with the school claiming "Coach Clint Myers knowingly let his son Corey Myers have relations and pursue relations with multiple members of the team."
Nemeth was cut from the team by Clint Myers following the 2017 season.
Greenberg's letter alleges that on March 30, 2017, "several players approached Head Coach Myers with proof in the form of text messages from a student-athlete's cell phone that Coach Corey was having an inappropriate relationship with one of the student-athletes."
According to the letter and several players, the team was then "quarantined" for several hours prior to a trip to Georgia. Five players told ESPN that, at that meeting, Auburn executive associate athletic director Meredith Jenkins told the players they were risking arrest for taking the text messages from their teammate's phone and ordered them to delete the messages.
Corey Myers, Auburn's associate head coach and Clint Myers' youngest son, resigned prior to the Georgia trip.
Corey Myers could not be reached for comment. Auburn officials declined to answer specific questions from ESPN about the allegations and team culture, but issued the following statement: "As information became known to us, the university acted upon it, following guidelines and/or procedures, to learn the facts and take appropriate action. The well-being of student-athletes was and is our utmost concern."
Auburn officials and Clint Myers have been aware of the allegations for months. Over the past five months, an ESPN reporter has spent several days with the Auburn team and coaching staff and conducted dozens of interviews.
Recently, players associated with the program began discussing with ESPN a culture of routine manipulation, isolation and exploitation. Three former players spoke on the record about a program that, according to Nemeth, was "toxic" and "lacked any kind of institutional control." One former player, when asked if any of the coaches ever commented on her looks, said, "That's how it was determined if you were liked or not."
Two weeks ago, an ESPN reporter asked Clint Myers to address the allegations and the perceived cultural problems within his program, and he declined comment. He retired Wednesday, saying in a university-issued statement that "after 40 years of coaching and reflecting on the importance of spending quality time with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren, I have decided to retire from a sport that I love dearly and which has brought so much joy to me."
One former player who spoke with ESPN is Blaire Bass, who provided ESPN screenshots of suggestive text messages she said were sent by Corey Myers after team photos were taken in September 2015. In one of the texts, the sender identified as Myers told Bass how she looked in one of the photos: "Your okay 7 maybe." In another, he wrote: "Thinking about you and know we give you a lot of s--- but we are all so glad you are here!" Bass said she was not invited back to the program after the conclusion of the 2016 season and is now playing second base at Louisville.
"No one on the outside has a clue to what we went through," said Whitney Jordan, who left after the 2017 season with a year of eligibility left to take a teaching internship.
Former shortstop Haley Fagan said several members of the team filed anonymous ethics complaints with the athletic department in September 2016, prompting the university to conduct an internal investigation that led to Corey Myers' resignation after a tearful team meeting. That September resignation lasted only two weeks, Fagan said, after Clint Myers and another Auburn coach asked select members of the team to "go fight for Corey" with the athletic department.
"I wrote a letter saying that I didn't believe all that was being said, because I wanted to defend my coach," one former Auburn player told ESPN. "After all the stuff that happened in the spring, I felt like an idiot for even opening my mouth."
Fagan said she wouldn't defend Corey Myers during the fall investigation and instead tried to speak up about his inappropriate behavior. "I remember when I first went to Coach [Clint Myers] and [Auburn assistant] Scott Woodard ... they literally said, 'Define inappropriate relationships.'"
Fagan said she had been troubled by Corey Myers' behavior since her first year on the team, when, after a ground ball fielding drill, "he smacked me on the butt. I looked at him and he said, 'What?' and I said, 'Don't do that.'"
ESPN sent public records requests regarding Clint and Corey Myers, including any disciplinary actions or complaints, to Auburn University and Arizona State University -- where Clint Myers was the head coach from 2006 to 2013 and Corey Myers was a volunteer coach during the Sun Devils' 2008 national championship season. The schools have acknowledged receipt of the requests but have not yet responded with any records.
According to Fagan and others, the rift that opened between Auburn players and coaches on the subject of Corey Myers turned explosive on a March 27 bus trip to play the Florida Gators. Several former Auburn players said in interviews that an Auburn player took a photo of texts, described as intimate in nature, exchanged between Corey Myers and a teammate.
It was an act that set the stage for all that was to follow: an emotionally charged postgame confrontation between Fagan and Florida coach Tim Walton, who unwittingly stepped into the Auburn storm; the three-hour March 30 "quarantine" described in Greenberg's letter; the resignation of Corey Myers; and, perhaps most remarkably, the refusal of several members of the team, including Fagan and 2016 All-American Kasey Cooper, to board the bus to Athens in the company of the player who allegedly exchanged text messages with Corey Myers.
"We said that if she gets on, we're staying off," Fagan said. "It was a team decision."
On May 31, four days after Auburn's season ended with its super regionals defeat to eventual 2017 WCWS champion Oklahoma, Nemeth filed her Title IX discrimination complaint. On July 20, Greenberg, a lawyer with experience in sports law and Title IX complaints, sent the letter on behalf of Nemeth to Ivey, Auburn president Steven Leath and Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. The letter states, "We believe that by virtue of the father-son relationship [between Clint and Corey Myers] coaches looked the other way thereby allowing Auburn's Intimate Relations Policy to be violated."
A day later, Auburn general counsel Lee Armstrong told Greenberg that Auburn was conducting an internal investigation into its softball program.
In a statement, Auburn officials declined to confirm to ESPN that any type of investigation is being conducted: "By practice and policy, Auburn does not disclose details about Title IX investigations or personnel matters." The school's Intimate Relations Policy prohibits anyone in a supervisory position from "pursuing or engaging in romantic or sexual relationships" with students or anyone else they are supervising.
Nemeth, contacted for her response to the news of Clint Myers' retirement, said that she feels "vindicated." She also expressed hope that Myers' departure means that she can be reinstated to the Auburn softball team.
"I was playing kickball at my mom's work and someone told me to look at my phone, and when I saw the news I started jumping up and down. I was making so much noise that they had to stop the game."
Said Fagan: "Coach and Corey, the way they were, it was always our fault. It was our fault if the story got out, it was our fault that Corey had to leave. Everybody protected Coach. Nobody protected us."
Reach Tom Junod at Thomas.C.Junod@espn.com.