University of Tennessee being investigated for sexual violence

The federal government has launched an investigation into sexual violence at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

In an email to faculty, staff and students obtained by The Tennessean, Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said the university was notified that an individual had filed a complaint with the federal government regarding the university's response to a report of sexual violence. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights confirmed it launched its investigation on June 29.

"While privacy laws prevent the university from disclosing the details of the complaint, I can assure you we will cooperate fully with OCR as it investigates the complaint," Creek's email said, according to The Tennessean.

At least six Tennessee football players on last season's roster have been accused of sexual assault.

Former linebacker A.J. Johnson and defensive back Michael Williams have pleaded not guilty to aggravated rape charges, with trial set to begin Aug. 24. They were suspended from the football team in November, one day before Knoxville police named both as subjects of a rape investigation. Johnson has since graduated and completed his eligibility.

Lawyers for both players have said their clients are innocent of charges of raping a woman at a Knoxville apartment in November.

Officials told the newspaper they were "in the process of collecting and preparing the information the Office of Civil Rights has requested."

The university implemented an interim policy on sexual misconduct and relationship violence last August, which WSMV.com reports will be finalized in August.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said this week that the league is in the process of forming a "working group" to study how to best minimize conduct issues among athletes. He stopped short of specifics on who will form the group or how it will operate.

In May, the SEC passed legislation that banned its member institutions from accepting transfer students with "serious misconduct" in their past.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he thought the increased emphasis on domestic violence spearheaded the move.

"Of course, I believe there should be a zero-tolerance policy as far as that goes," he said at SEC media days. "I think that's what's heading it up, and I would think most people would have that same view."

An Office of Civil Rights spokesperson told the Tennessean that there are 135 cases of sexual violence under investigation at 121 post-secondary institutions, including Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough and The Associated Press contributed to this report.