Rutgers player says he was bullied

Updated: November 17, 2013, 2:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Rutgers cornerback Jevon Tyree is asking the school to discipline defensive coordinator Dave Cohen after "an outright bullying episode" led him to quit the team earlier this month, the Tyree family told NJ.com.

Tyree, 19, told the website that Cohen called him emasculating names and threatened to head-butt him during a study hall session.

The incident occurred in April, the same month that Rutgers fired men's basketball coach Mike Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned in the wake of a misconduct scandal that put the school under national scrutiny.

I really think disciplinary action should happen, almost to the point where [defensive coordinator Dave Cohen] should get fired. I really do. That's how bad it is, especially for the damage he's done to Jevon.

-- Mark Tyree, Jevon Tyree's father,
to NJ.com

In a statement released Friday night, Rutgers said the incident between Tyree and Cohen "was dealt with immediately."

"Cohen apologized the following day for his participation in the escalation of banter, which resulted in the use of inappropriate language," the statement said. "(Head coach) Kyle Flood reprimanded Cohen and addressed the situation immediately with the entire coaching staff.

"This was an isolated incident. At no time was there any threat of physical violence, which was verified by an academic counselor, who was present in the room."

Rutgers says Tyree's father, Mark, brought up the incident in a "conversation" with new athletic director Julie Hermann in September while questioning his son's role on the team. Flood then met with the Tyrees again; Jevon Tyree said he would remain with the team, and Tyree's father told Hermann the matter was resolved.

But Tyree's parents adamantly disputed the version of events as outlined in the Rutgers statement, telling NJ.com they never discussed the matter with Hermann and only talked with Flood after having personally called him and requested a meeting.

"I never talked to her. That is insane," Mark Tyree said, according to the website. "My mother has passed and I would put my hand on a stack of Bibles in her goodness. That's ridiculous that she would even say that. That's scary."

In an interview with the Asbury Park Press on Saturday, Hermann said, "I'm sorry he doesn't remember that. I was informed about what happened, what they say happened, and we investigated it. Again. Reviewed it. Kyle Flood reviewed it."

Hermann said neither the incident nor Cohen's discipline would be reviewed again.

"That incident pre-dates me," she told the Press. "As we said in our comment, it pre-dates me. It was dealt with then by Coach Flood. He was verbally reprimanded and Kyle spoke with his staff and said 'this is not acceptable.' And made it absolutely clear. So for me to ask for it to be reviewed again is having it reviewed again. And we have not had an issue since then."

Asked who was lying about a meeting between Hermann and Tyrees' parents, Hermann said: "It's not Rutgers athletics."

Tyree's parents had previously told NJ.com the athletic department's response was insufficient on any level.

"Basically, my dad went in there and told Coach Cohen there's going to be no more bullying towards me," Tyree told NJ.com. "Basically that's what it was -- I was just bullied by him for no reason."

Tyree quit the team Nov. 6, according to the school.

Tyree told NJ.com he quit because about 10 teammates and a tutor saw the incident, which later "transferred to the other coaches" and led the redshirt freshman to feel ostracized. Tyree's parents said the "outright bullying episode" led to decreased repetitions in practice and exclusions from team meetings.

The final straw came Nov. 2 when the Scarlet Knights, whose secondary had been racked by injuries, played a wide receiver at cornerback against Temple instead of Tyree.

"I really think disciplinary action should happen, almost to the point where [Cohen] should get fired. I really do," Mark Tyree told NJ.com. "That's how bad it is, especially for the damage he's done to Jevon."

Mark Tyree said Hermann has not responded to his recent efforts to contact her.

Rutgers was criticized in April following a scandal in which Rice was shown on video verbally and physically abusing players during practice.

Before the video aired on ESPN, Pernetti hired a law firm to investigate Rice's behavior but did not fire him. Instead, Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, ordered him to anger-management training and fined him $50,000.

That led to accusations that the athletic department was trying to cover up the incident, and when university president Robert Barchi saw the tape, he ordered Rice's firing. Pernetti resigned later that week amid outrage from university faculty.

Jevon Tyree told NJ.com his abuse started after he missed a week of practice with a hamstring injury. He did not tell his parents about the abuse until training camp this summer.

When the elder Tyree asked Flood if Cohen, who was promoted to defensive coordinator in February after one year as linebackers coach, would be punished for the incident, Tyree said Flood told him, "Mr. Tyree, I'm not going to tell you how I discipline my coaches."

"I understand that, because that's in-house stuff, but what happens if nothing happens? How do you know?" Mark Tyree told NJ.com.

Jevon Tyree is still attending classes at Rutgers but plans to transfer, according to the website.

Flood on Saturday said he's sticking by the university's statement.

"I think that's part of our challenge every week, and those distractions, whatever they are, they come in a lot of shapes and forms," Flood said after Rutgers' loss to Cincinnati. "As a college football coach and as a college football coaching staff, that's part of our job is to try to teach the players how to stay focused on being 1-0, and in our culture we use the word chop, the ability to focus on the task at hand."

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