Woman who alleged rape by ex-MSU players speaks publicly

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University student who accused counseling center staff of discouraging her from reporting a 2015 rape by three men’s basketball players said Thursday that she is no longer afraid and wants to encourage other “silent survivors” of sexual assault to tell their stories.

Bailey Kowalski, 22, who will graduate in May with a biology degree, held a news conference on the fourth anniversary of the alleged incident. She spoke a day after going public with her name for the first time in a story published by The New York Times.

“This isn’t a burden they have to carry on their own,” she said of other rape victims, as her parents, brother and lawyer looked on inside a hotel meeting room near the East Lansing campus. Kowalksi, who cried at times, said her decisions to sue the university a year ago and to identify herself now were influenced by watching victims of disgraced former university sports doctor Larry Nassar come forward.

“It empowered me to do it,” she said.

The suit, in which Kowalski is listed as Jane Doe and the now former “notable” players are not identified, alleges that she was 18 on April 12, 2015, when she met the players at an East Lansing bar about a week after the team lost in the Final Four. She was later taken to one of the men’s off-campus apartments, where the players took turns raping her in a bedroom, according to the complaint, which says she thought she might have been drugged.

She awoke a few hours later on a couch, caught a taxi back to her dorm room and contacted university counseling center staff about a week later. After telling a counselor that basketball players were involved, she said the staff discouraged her from notifying the police.

“I was intimidated, and I was told that I was going to be swimming with some really big fish,” Kowalski said Thursday. “I’ll never forget that phrase and the immediate feeling of despair and isolation.”

She said she has nothing to be ashamed of and there are other victims.

“I want to be an example for them. These silent survivors matter and they’re worth fighting for. They hide in plain sight of all of us,” she said. “Lastly, I want the system surrounding Michigan State University to change, and I want all people to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their status or the revenue they bring to the university.”

The suit, which was amended in December, points to past alleged sexual assaults involving MSU athletes, including two separate 2010 incidents in which a total five basketball players allegedly raped women and were not charged or disciplined. It alleges that the university violated Title IX requirements and Kowalski’s rights by failing to follow normal reporting and investigative procedures when athletes were involved, actively discouraging victims from filing reports and not notifying them of reporting and confidentiality options.

Kowalski, who was studying to be a sports journalist before the encounter, has no plan to file a police report but is not ruling it out completely, said her attorney, Karen Truszkowki.

Kowalski said she went from being a “bleed green Spartan fan” as a freshman to not caring that the team made the Final Four this year. She said she would have filed a police report if she had known that she or her friends would not get into trouble for using fake IDs at the bar, and she would have had a rape kit done if not for fears that her parents’ insurance would be billed.

“I was terrified to tell anybody,” she said.

The school declined to comment on the lawsuit because it hasn’t been resolved. Last year, though, it said Kowalski was treated appropriately by counselors, and it denied that she was discouraged to file a Title IX complaint or to contact the police.

The university opened a Title IX investigation after learning of the suit. The review is ongoing.

“We are committed to listening to survivors who bravely tell us about their experiences so that we can improve our response and help those who seek support in the future,” school spokeswoman Emily Gerkin Guerrant said in a statement Thursday.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.