Two weeks after a lawsuit was filed against the University of Tennessee accusing the school of having a "hostile sexual environment," its athletic department paraded all 16 of its coaches out for a joint news conference Tuesday.
The goal of the event was to send a message about the student-athlete experience in the program. Some coaches had insightful things to say, but others were slightly tone-deaf. The group took turns talking about their adoration for the school, how much all the teams love each other and how great the culture is. It's "the best it's ever been," softball co-head coach Karen Weekly said.
Earlier this month, a group of unidentified women filed the suit, alleging that Tennessee violated Title IX regulations through a policy of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.
While none of the coaches actually mentioned the lawsuit itself, football coach Butch Jones did take a moment to mention those affected by the allegations. "Everything is about the alleged victims, and we take that very, very seriously," he said. "We feel for them. We hurt for them."
Most of the news conference was used to dispel and disprove any notions that the campus is an unsafe environment for women. You'd think this would be a great opportunity to send a positive message, right?
Here's a list of what we thought were the most ridiculous things coaches said during Tuesday's news conference:
"In swimming and diving, we've got people who are scantily clothed training next to each other all the time. That's the culture they grow up in and their character, and their bodies are essentially -- there's no covering up anything. There's a tremendous culture of honesty in swimming and diving." -- Matt Kredich, men's and women's swimming and diving coach
To recap: swimmers wear bathing suits in the pool, which means they are, ahem, "scantily clothed." Because of this, swimmers can't ever disrespect one another because they're unable to cover up, figuratively and literally. So that makes a lot of sense, right? Don't answer that.
"We just came back from Chattanooga this weekend. One of the hotel attendants grabbed us and said, 'I just want to let you know, this might be one of the best, well-mannered teams that has ever come through our facility.' That's what's going on here at the University of Tennessee." -- Dave Serrano, baseball coach
Guys, the baseball team is polite and well-mannered. That makes everything better, right?
"I was a federal agent before I came here. I talk to my players all the time about that. The biggest thing I put out is that nothing good happens after 10 p.m." -- Ralph Weekly, softball co-head coach
Hear that, ladies? If you're in college and you go out past 10 p.m. (10 p.m.!) and anything bad happens, well, you should have known better.
"If you want to go back 20 years and accumulate incidents, I think a lot of places would have a similar story to Tennessee." -- Karen Weekly, softball co-head coach
Umm... this doesn't make any allegations or incidents at any other schools OK.
"I do think it's real. Our competitors are using it against us." -- Butch Jones, football head coach
Jones, whose face grew increasingly redder as the event went on, was clearly heated about the allegations. And while he did express sympathy for the victims, he also seemed concerned about how opponents were using the claims against Tennessee when recruiting players. Because, you know, priorities.
"We don't fear, we don't live in fear, we as coaches don't lay awake at 11 o'clock at night fearing, 'Oh my gosh, where are we? What are our players doing? What might our kids be up to right now?' " -- Brian Pensky, women's soccer head coach
Glad you're sleeping well at night.
"We talk, just as you would your daughter, don't go out alone at night, know where you're going to parties, those types of things. ... I think as coaches we're in an environment here that's a safe environment, so it's up to us to let them know that, 'No, you don't walk down the street by yourself.' It's up to us. We are their mother, we are their father, and wherever we go, we've got to portray safety. If I had a daughter, I would not hesitate one bit for her to come on campus." -- Holly Warlick, women's basketball head coach
I love the "don't walk alone at night" argument. Because people who want to hurt you are just out there and we just have to deal with it, right?
Not a good look, Tennessee coaches. Better luck with your next news conference.