After reports from over a decade ago resurfaced in a case involving Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, should the team be concerned at all?
Last weekend, the Boulder Daily Camera released a 2004 Boulder Police Department report in which a former University of Colorado athletic trainer accused new Denver Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph of sexually assaulting her and another woman.
Joseph, then 30-years-old at the time and CU’s defensive backs coach under head coach Gary Barnett, was said to have gone home with two women (both university athletic trainers) following a night out where the parties ran into each other by chance at a Boulder bar.
After additional drinking and marijuana use at a private residence, the woman who filed the report told police that, after going to sleep, she awoke to find Joseph had disrobed and climbed into bed with her. She stated that he began touching her body, grabbing her breasts, and ran his erect penis against her.
According to the report, the woman’s friend informed her that Joseph had done “the same things” to her at some point that night.
Joseph was not arrested, interviewed or charged in the investigation, as one woman declined to press charges and the other refused to speak to police. The case was subsequently closed.
One of the accusers, however, was quoted telling a detective that Joseph should be fired for his actions; calling him a “sleaze ball,” and going on to claim that she and her friend were “not the only women VJ (Joseph) was getting in trouble for.”
During this period in Boulder, the Colorado Football program was embroiled in a sordid recruiting scandal that involved allegations of rape by football players, slush funds, and recruiting parties centered around sex and alcohol.
In an interview earlier this week with The Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala about Denver’s spate of new coaching hires, Joseph was also questioned about the report, characterizing the accusations therein as “false.”
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“That was resolved a long time ago,” he said. “For myself, for my family, for the Denver Broncos, I’m disappointed and embarrassed. I was a young guy and it showed to my immaturity and irresponsibility in my life when I was younger. But I’ve grown so much and that’s why I’m disappointed, because I’ve grown so much as a person, as a coach, as a father, as a husband… I regret that my name is even associated with this.”
Joseph appears to admit mistakes on account of youth and “immaturity” while coaching at CU, but if the statement rings somewhat curious, it’s because he doesn’t cite what mistakes those ostensible handicaps produced.
To further complicate matters and the aggravate the Broncos’ burgeoning PR headache, a resurfaced 2005 deposition from then-university president Elizabeth Hoffman reveals Joseph was under investigation by the school for sexual harassment—again with regard to other CU trainers, including one instance where he was believed to have had sex with one in a steam room.
Set in the broader context of the lawsuits against the university that exposed the CU recruiting scandal, Hoffman’s deposition merely brushed on the internal investigation into Joseph, as well as other instances of purported misconduct within the football program.
“We have no reason to believe that it was not consensual,” Hoffman stated, “but since he is a coach, we consider that it was probable or possible sexual harassment, so we followed our sexual harassment protocols.”
Patrick Smyth, the Broncos’ vice president of public relations, commented on the sexual assault accusations last weekend: “While we were aware of these accusations, he was not charged with anything from the report filed in 2004.” The team has not made an official statement since.
After being placed on administrative leave during the ‘04 sexual assault investigation, Joseph’s tenure coaching at CU ended shortly thereafter when he left Boulder to take an assistant coaching position at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Based on what’s come to light in seven short days, it’s impossible to know what to believe about Denver’s new head coach. Nine days ago, many were hailing Joseph as the best available candidate to lead the organization into a great new era. While not an issue that has any bearing on normally pressing offseason topics, it would be cavalier for Broncos’ fans not to feel a bit sidetracked and tainted by association from this.
In a gentler, more socially-conscious era of NFL football, it would be crude of Joseph and the Broncos not to tackle these accusations head-on. Ducking behind curt official statements and isolated quotes couched amid bona-fide football questions won’t pacify a fan base whose level of concern may very well bug-out in the weeks to come.
Even if completely innocent of the whole nine-yards, Vance Joseph’s first big play as Denver’s head coach should be to confront his past to the same media throng that covered his hiring.