Tennessee basketball coach reassigned amid rape, hazing scandal

Story highlights

  • Basketball coach will not interact with students during investigation, superintendent says
  • The rest of the varsity basketball season at Ooltewah High School was called off last week
  • A freshman player says he was assaulted by teammates while attending a tournament

(CNN)A Tennessee basketball coach has been reassigned and a school superintendent has apologized for not speaking out sooner, weeks after an Ooltewah High School freshman said he was raped by his teammates.

Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith, who last week canceled the rest of the basketball season, said during a press conference Monday that he regrets not publicly addressing the issue earlier.
He should have canceled the basketball season as soon as he heard about the alleged attack, he said. The superintendent said when he canceled the season that his decision was not a reflection on the coaching staff, but was necessary so that investigators can do their job.
Coach Andre Montgomery has since been moved to another position within the school system where he will not interact with students during the investigation.
"I don't want anyone to think he's being punished or penalized. ... If we find other reasons to address the coach, we will. I've also instructed him not to be on the campus of any of our schools until this investigation is over," Smith said.
An attorney for Montgomery did not respond to CNN's request for comment Tuesday.
Three juveniles face aggravated rape and aggravated assault charges in the December 22 incident, which resulted in a 15-year-old teammate being hospitalized and requiring surgery, his family said.
According to Gatlinburg police, the assault occurred at a rental cabin where the team was staying while in town for a tournament. Ooltewah is a suburb of Chattanooga and about 130 miles southwest of Gatlinburg.
Court documents obtained by CNN affiliate WTVC show that a 17-year-old teammate is being charged with sodomizing the 15-year-old with a pool stick while two 16-year-old teammates held him down. Gatlinburg police statements do not mention a pool stick.
The coach rushed the victim to the hospital, police said. The boy was later sent to a hospital in Knoxville, where he underwent surgery. He has since been released from the hospital and is home recovering, his family said.
The victim's grandmother said there were no adults around when the incident occurred.
CNN is not naming the grandmother because identifying her could identify a sexual assault victim, which is against CNN policy.
The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office has said it is investigating allegations there is "an ongoing pattern of assaults allegedly committed under the guise of hazing" on the team. No specific criminal behavior has been reported.
The accused teens will be in court on January 26 in Sevier County.
School Board Chairman Jonathan Welch said he and others have struggled to come up with the right words to describe the case that has roiled the community.
"Tragic, horrific, none describe it," he said last week.
Welch said the board knows there is a lack of confidence in the school system, but he cautioned that officials could not yet provide answers to a multitude of questions because of the ongoing investigation.