Former Coastal Carolina athlete sues over expulsion

Coastal Carolina students walk to class during a sunny January afternoon.
Coastal Carolina students walk to class during a sunny January afternoon. Coastal Carolina University

Expelled by Coastal Carolina after being cleared of rape allegations, a former football player has filed suit in an effort to clear his name.

According to the lawsuit filed Jan. 31, the former football player — who has identified himself in court documents as ‘John Doe’ — alleges the school failed to provide him “a meaningful standard of due process and equity, concerning the purported sexual assault allegation of rape” made against him.

On Aug. 27, 2016, the dismissed student-athlete claims he and a Coastal Carolina cheerleader engaged in “consensual sex.”

“Both accuser John Doe and Jane Doe had drank small quantities of alcoholic beverages at the party; however, neither of them had been drunk or intoxicated,” court documents state. “After flirting back and forth throughout the afternoon at the pool party, John Doe and Jane Doe intimated to each other that they should go to Jane Doe’s nearby apartment and again engage in consensual sexual intercourse.

“While sitting at the pool’s edge and when Jane Doe was flirting with John Doe, he asked, ‘Do you want to go back to your room and (have sex)?’ Without hesitation or thought, Jane Doe responded affirmatively, while also expressing she could not be seen leaving the pool party with John Doe since she had a steady boyfriend.”

Shortly after arriving at her apartment, the two “engaged in sexual intercourse,” with Jane Doe falling asleep on the bed shortly afterward. According to the lawsuit, the two had previously engaged in similar behavior “at least two or them times, if not more.”

He did not stay the night at the woman’s apartment, court documents state. However, before leaving, the former CCU student-athletes claims he “came out of the room and into the kitchen to get something to quench his thirst,” and while there “engaged in conversation for a few minutes” with her roommate.

Later that evening, the Conway Police Department responded to a complaint filed by the woman of sexual assault at the Coastal Club Apartments. Two suspects were mentioned in the complaint, one of whom was John Doe and another Coastal Carolina student who entered the apartment after the aforementioned subject had left.

Conway police officers noted the woman’s behavior as “unusal that she was very casual, unconcerned about the incident,” the lawsuit states, and claiming she was “dragged in the parking lot area and near the stairs.”

After reviewing security footage, authorities found her account to be untrue, according to the lawsuit. She also “felt compelled to make the report because the cheerleading coach urged her to do so,” the lawsuit claims.

Coastal Carolina University offers its ruling

On Oct. 14, 2016, the Conway Police Department contacted John Doe’s father to notify them the investigation was complete, and the woman’s claims of sexual assault were unfounded. Even after the investigation was complete, the former Coastal Carolina football player was informed he was being formally charged with violation of its code of student conduct, the lawsuit states.

Two months later, his case was heard by the Coastal Carolina Student Conduct Board. The group, comprised of five faculty members, “was formed to adjudicate the allegation based on the investigative report of the assigned Title IX investigator for the university.”

After two hours of deliberation, the board unanimously ruled in favor of the former student-athlete. “There was insufficient evidence to support sexual misconduct allegations of rape against him,” the lawsuit states.

In the aftermath, the female student is believed to have submitted a written appeal, though not in the three days allowed, the former CCU football player and his legal team allege.

“On this basis alone, no appeal by Jane Doe should have been considered by Coastal and instead, summarily rejected because by missing the appeal deadline, the Student Conduct Board decision was final,” the lawsuit states.

As a result, the decision was reviewed a second time in March 2017 by the Student Conduct Board, this particular group consisting “only of a chairperson, and three faculty members, with not a single student member appointed, as required,” the lawsuit claims.

It also alleges Coastal Carolina provost and executive vice president J. Ralph Byington “simply did not like” the outcome of the previous decision.

“The unlawful rehearing of the Dec. 6, 2016, Student Conduct Board with an unduly constituted and incomplete board panel was conducted on March 31, 2017, in only two hours, hearing no witnesses and deliberated only 25 minutes,” the lawsuit states. “Following deliberation the unlawful second Student Conduct Board ruled that ‘The board found a preponderance of evidence to indicate that student (Jane Doe) was incapacitated by alcohol consumption, based on statements provided.

“(John Doe) was familiar with (Jane Doe) was incapacitated and therefore unable to give consent.”

The ruling’s aftermath

The ruling resulted in John Doe being expelled from Coastal Carolina, and the loss of a football scholarship offering full tuition at the school. Efforts to transfer to other “NCAA Division I football programs, either as a walk-on or in seeking another full-tuition (or even part-tuition) athletic scholarship” have been hampered by the outcome, the lawsuit alleges.

Coastal Carolina University claims it was justified in its reasoning for dismissing the former student-athlete.

“Recently a former university student filed a lawsuit against the university relating to his relationship with a female student and his dismissal,” said a prepared statement by Coastal Carolina University spokesperson Martha Hunn. “The lawsuit alleges that the university erred by dismissing him; however, the university acted properly and will vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

In addition to damages incurred as a result of his dismissal, the former Coastal Carolina football player is seeking to have the outcome and findings made by the school reversed, his reputation restored and any record of the (Jane Doe’s) complaint against him be permanently destroyed. He also is requesting his readmission into the school for the Spring 2018 semester “for attendance at his option,” him being allowed to withdraw from courses he may have failed as a result of the Student Conduct Board’s ruling, and the declaration the school’s rules, regulations and guidelines are unconstitutional as applied.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII