It seems like it's "death by a thousand cuts" on Rocky Top, with a slow drip of information coming to light involving the Title IX lawsuit that alleges that Tennessee created a hostile sexual environment due to its handling of sexual assault allegations.
Wednesday night, the bull's-eye landed squarely on head coach Butch Jones.
According to Matt Slovin and Nate Rau of the Tennessean, former Vols wide receiver Drae Bowles alleged in a sworn affidavit that Jones scolded him for helping a potential rape victim over the phone and later called him back to apologize. The two calls, Bowles alleges, came after he was punched in the locker room by former linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggitt as retribution for giving the victim a ride home. According to the lawsuit, Bowles was confronted by former Vols Marlin Lane and Geraldo Orta the next day due to the incident.
BREAKING: Ex-Vol Drae Bowles alleges in affidavit that Butch Jones called him a traitor for helping rape victim. https://t.co/cugFRNg42O— Matt Slovin (@MattSlovin) February 24, 2016
Curt Maggitt also punched Drae Bowles in the face, according to Bowles’ sworn affidavit that was included in amended filing today.— Matt Slovin (@MattSlovin) February 24, 2016
Jones responded to the accusations late Wednesday night in a statement.
Butch Jones statement pic.twitter.com/UbqdsHrMOh— Matt Slovin (@MattSlovin) February 25, 2016
Athletics director Dave Hart stood by his head coach in a press conference streamed live on UTSports.com on Thursday afternoon.
"I trust Butch Jones, implicitly," Hart said. "I know who he is. I know what his work ethic is. I know what he's meant to this University while being with the department of athletics, and I know how he's represented the University. I trust in him, implicitly."
Basically, this is now a "he said/he said" case, with enormous ramifications on the line.
If Jones did indeed call Bowles a traitor for helping a potential rape victim, that's not only a fireable offense, it should end Jones' college football coaching career forever.
Whether the rest of the lawsuit that alleges a hostile sexual environment is successful or not, Jones calling Bowles a traitor for helping out a rape victim would suggest that—even if it isn't indicative of the entire athletics department—the football program has a major culture problem that is very hostile and starts at the top.
Jones has much more incentive to lie in order to protect his job, while Bowles' lying in a sworn affidavit would almost certainly bring a perjury charge against him. Because of that, Jones looks horrible in this situation.
But Bowles might have contradicted himself already.
According to Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel, Bowles—who missed practices after the incident—said in February 2015 that the victim didn't mention the alleged rape when he gave her a ride home and didn't mention being assaulted.
Tennessee is standing by its head coach, for now. But that won't—and shouldn't—last if Bowles is telling the truth in his sworn affidavit.
Another Summer Of Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh is the college football equivalent of the Jelly of the Month Club Christmas gift Frank Shirley gave Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation.
He's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.
Harbaugh's latest dust-up involves first-year Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. Smart was asked about Michigan's planned trip to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, earlier this week, according to Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and—rather predictably—voiced his displeasure.
"They’re obviously trying to gain a competitive advantage, and that’s their right. But I think the NCAA in due time will have to step in," Smart said. "I don’t know how it’s going to go down. It’s going to be interesting to see, though."
That's not exactly a shot. After all, that's essentially going to be the party line around the SEC this winter. That didn't stop Harbaugh from taking advantage of the moment, though:
If the Georgia coach is implying any intent on our part to break rules, he is barking up the wrong tree.— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) February 24, 2016
For the sake of all of us in the offseason, keep it up, Harbaugh.
It's the offseason, and a little fun on Twitter never hurt anybody. Both are defending their respective sides, as they should.
SEC fans will believe the line about player welfare that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tossed out a few weeks ago, and Michigan fans will certainly say it's just a cover and an attempt for the SEC to defend its recruiting turf.
At this point, it doesn't matter. It's the offseason, and spring practices, for the most part, haven't kicked off yet. If Harbaugh can continue to bridge the gap during the doldrums of the winter, that's totally fine.
Just make sure we get a Michigan-Georgia bowl matchup next winter, please.
A Little Help, Please?
We're not breaking any news here in Extra Points when we say that Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is on the hot seat entering 2016.
That much is obvious.
To help Malzahn kick-start the first mediocre offense he's produced in his college head coaching or assistant coaching career, he sought the advice of another legendary high school coach who is making it work in college: Baylor head coach Art Briles.
According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, the two met in Waco, Texas, this week, with Malzahn likely being on the receiving end of plenty of advice.
Remember the 2015 season, when Baylor suffered through injuries to quarterbacks Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham, still managed to finish 10-3 and lit up a good North Carolina defense to the tune of 756 yards (including 645 on the ground) in a 49-38 win over the Tar Heels.
How much of an influence will Briles have on the 2016 Tigers?
The only place in which it could come into play is in the passing game. The two programs both utilize tempo, but the Bears spread the field incredibly wide and give their receivers a ton of room to get open.
Auburn's offensive identity is still going to be a two-back, ground-and-pound, smashmouth approach with tempo—as it has always been. But if wide receivers start lining up way outside at or beyond the numbers on a consistent basis, with slot receivers out with them far away from the football, you'll know that Malzahn's trip to Waco yielded some new ideas.
Loss In The Trenches
Mississippi State's coaching staff in 2016 will look totally different than it did in 2015.
That's not an exaggeration, either.
The one remaining holdover on the defensive side of the ball, defensive line coach David Turner, jumped ship this week to Texas A&M, according to Michael Bonner of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, where he will join an Aggie team under coordinator John Chavis that includes Myles Garrett, Daylon Mack and Daeshon Hall.
For Mississippi State, it's a huge loss.
While the Bulldogs haven't always been near the top of the SEC in total defense under Turner, who coached their defensive line from 2007-2009 and again from 2013-2015, they consistently found success in key situations like in the red zone and on third downs. The Bulldogs finished third in the conference in third-down defense (34.95 percent) and red-zone touchdown defense (43.18 percent) in 2014 and second in red-zone touchdown defense (42.22 percent) last year.
Turner's ability to develop players like Preston Smith, Kaleb Eulls, Ryan Brown and A.J. Jefferson allowed Mississippi State to consistently rotate players up front, which is a big reason they bent but rarely broke.
He is the fourth Mississippi State defensive assistant to move on this offseason. Former coordinator Manny Diaz took the same job at Miami, cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend took a similar job with the Tennessee Titans and safeties coach Tony Hughes took the head coaching job at Jackson State.
If Mississippi State can find the same defensive situational success with a whole new staff in 2016, it would be a huge accomplishment for head coach Dan Mullen and his program.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema continues to lose assistant coaches yet continues to find ways to upgrade.
Last offseason, he lost offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to Pitt and dipped into the head coaching ranks to lure Dan Enos away from Central Michigan.
This year, he's adding more former head coaches.
Former Iowa State Paul Rhoads has been tabbed to coach the Razorback defensive backs after serving seven years as the head coach of the Cyclones.
"Paul has had a longstanding reputation as a great teacher and recruiter even prior to his years of experience as a coordinator and head coach," said Bielema, according to quotes emailed by Arkansas. "He instantly brings years of experience to our defensive staff room and has coached the secondary and defensive backs to the highest levels of success."
Rhoads replaces Clay Jennings, who left for Texas in January. He'll inherit a pass defense that finished last in the SEC in 2015 at 275.2 passing yards per game and picked off 11 passes—tied for ninth in the conference.
Rhoads was Auburn's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2008, when the Tigers finished fifth in the conference in pass defense at 178.8 yards per game. Prior to that, he led some fantastic Pittsburgh defenses from 2000-2007. The Panthers finished third in the nation in pass defense in 2007 (167.3 YPG) and second in 2005 (152.8 YPG).
If that's not a home run hire, I'm not sure what is.
- Former Auburn running back Peyton Barber told reporters at the combine that his mother is homeless, according to ESPN, which was a big reason why he jumped to the NFL early. As I wrote back in September when I featured his early success, never count Barber—who has used all kinds of motivation throughout his career—out.
- Former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital is trying to lure his quarterbacks to Cal. Tate Martell, a 5-star Aggie commit in the Class of 2017, received an offer from the Bears this week. If Aggie fans weren't already upset with him, they certainly should be if he lures the next great quarterback away from College Station.
- Texas A&M tight end Jordan Davis announced his decision to transfer on Twitter. It's an underutilized position at Texas A&M, and there will certainly be a place for the 6'4", 254-pound former 4-star prospect.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.