University: Changes not related to investigation

Updated: September 9, 2004, 3:22 PM ET
Associated Press

PROVO, Utah -- Brigham Young University revamped its athletic department Wednesday, but said the move was made after a months-long internal review rather than as a reaction to the recent sexual abuse allegations that have rocked the steadfast Mormon school.

BYU Advancement Vice President K. Fred Skousen said during a hastily called news conference that eliminating the positions of the men's and women's athletic directors and merging the two departments into one came after BYU received results from an internal review commissioned in May to improve athletics.

The contracts for Val Hale, director of men's athletics, and Elaine Michaelis, women's athletics director, were not renewed, Skousen said. Both were immediately replaced Wednesday by a team of department officials and Skousen, who said a formal search for a new athletic director would not start for three to six months.

Associate athletic director Tom Holmoe, the former football coach at Cal-Berkely, and senior associate AD Peter Pilling will serve as co-chairmen of a transitional team that will oversee athletics in the interim.

The interim team also includes associate AD Brian Santiago and Janie Penfield, associate AD and senior women's administrator.

Hale has been athletic director since 1999 and was an associate AD at his alma mater for 10 years before that.

Michaelis was in her 10th year of overseeing BYU's 11 women's sports. She also coached volleyball, basketball, softball and field hockey for the Cougars.

Hale did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press at his office Wednesday. Michaelis' office phone rang through to a different office.

Skousen said the changes were not related to an ongoing investigation by the Utah County Attorney's office into a 17-year-old girl's claim that she was gang raped by several people she believed to be BYU football players.

According to police documents, the girl claimed she met several football players at a mall Aug. 8 and went back to their apartment, where they drank alcohol and watched a pornographic DVD.

The girl told police she felt sick and went into another room to lie down, then woke up as one of the men allegedly was having sex with her. She claimed at least three or four men also then had sex with her.

"It is somewhat coincidental that we're in the press for other things right now," Skousen said.

However, he did say the consolidation is an "important first step in creating a distinctive, exceptional athletic program that is fully aligned with the mission and values of Brigham Young University and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is our objective."

Besides the official investigation, BYU has launched its own investigation into the girl's allegations.

It's the second investigation this year involving BYU football players and accusations of sexual assault.

A probe into an off-campus party Jan. 16 resulted in one football player being kicked off the team. Three others were suspended until at least spring 2005, while two players were placed on probation.

Police said a woman claimed to have been raped by several football players at the January party. The woman later told police the sex was consensual, but she had said she was raped because she was embarrassed and did not want to get in trouble for violating the honor code.

Criminal charges were never filed but the school conducted an investigation because of the honor code violations.

BYU's Honor Code prohibits the use of alcohol and pornography and any premarital or extramarital sex. Students who violate the Honor Code may be placed on probation, suspended or expelled.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press