In the last four years, Gary Pinkel says he has not spoken to Derrick Washington. But a week before the start of Pinkel's fifth football season since Washington left the Missouri football team, the coach is still talking about Washington.
Pinkel and Director of Athletics Mike Alden held a press conference on Friday afternoon to respond to allegations in an ESPN Outside the Lines report that came out on Thursday afternoon. The report, which can be read here, states that Missouri failed to follow proper procedure and violated the NCAA's Title IX guidelines in failing to follow up on a 2008 rape allegation against Washington.
That allegation is not denied by Missouri. Both Alden, on Friday, and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, on a Thursday conference call with the media, have admitted that Missouri made mistakes in handling the aftermath of those allegations.
"We were aware of allegations back in 2008 at that time," Alden said Friday. "Back in 2008, I was not aware of those types of (reporting) procedures.
"We know that mistakes were made in the past. We understand that."
Pinkel said he spoke to Washington following the 2008 allegation and that Washington "certainly denied it."
"They're investigators," Pinkel said. "If they decide that they're not going to press charges, then I'm not going to remove a player from the team."
That brought to mind the situation of Dorial Green-Beckham. The star wide receiver was dismissed from the Missouri football program in April of this year. He had been arrested twice on charges surrounding possession of marijuana, but has not been charged in one arrest and plead guilty to a trespassing charge in the other. His dismissal was the result of a burglary investigation in which he was accused of hitting a female. He was not charged, but was dismissed from the team shortly after the details of the police report were made public and has since transferred to Oklahoma.
"I had other information, quite honestly, that I knew that would help me make a decision and the decision was that I had to remove him," Pinkel said when asked of the difference in disciplinary action. "That's confidential where I got that, but I got it. I could have thrown it out. I didn't. Because I had to do what's right."
While Washington wasn't kicked off the team following the 2008 situation, he was two years later following more allegations. Pinkel recalled that a 2010 allegation of sexual assault came to his attention in the summer.
"I said to him, two years ago and now, I said this is serious. I said you might be dismissed from the program," Pinkel said of his conversation with Washington in 2010. "We got problems here."
Washington was suspended on August 26, 2010. At the time, Alden told the Columbia Missourian that Missouri had been aware of the allegations, "I think for a few weeks."
Just six days after he was suspended, Washington was "permanently suspended." His scholarship remained intact if Washington chose to stay in school at Mizzou, but Washington dropped out of classes.
"We were getting reports as often as we could on where the investigation was going," Pinkel said. "Right about, somewhere, again this is four years ago, the middle of August, there was a point where we got the feeling that finally there was a point there was a great than 50 percent chance that they were going to arrest him.
"I just told Mike, I said, 'There's no way in the world knowing that he very likely is going to be arrested in the middle of September can we play the first game with him. We can't do it.'"
A similar situation occurred with basketball player Michael Dixon in 2012. Dixon was suspended for the first six games of the season following sexual assault allegations. Like Washington, the incident was not Dixon's first. He left the program on November 30th. Technically, like Washington, Dixon was not dismissed by Missouri, but chose to transfer. He finished his career at Memphis.
There is no debate that Missouri made mistakes in not following up on the police investigation with Washington in 2008. Whether or not the school made mistakes beyond that is up for debate. Asked if he is confident his program handled the situation with Washington correctly, Pinkel said, "Certainly you're always trying to make yourself better. That's my job, that's what I do. Coaches, players, everybody tries to make ourself better. Our campus is better right now."
Alden said, "The way that those types of issues unfold, all of them are unique. All of them are unbelievably challenging. Each situation is going to have various circumstances that are specific to those situations. When you go through those, do those help shape your thought process on any other issue that may come up? Absolutely.
"You take those situations and, obviously, you're trying to learn from those. That's what we've tried to do in each of those. I think, for us, I believe it's made us a stronger athletic program. I think it's made us more knowledgeable for what we need to do."
The Outside the Lines report is set to air on ESPN Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. Central time.