Utah State football coach says he didn’t know player was threatened after releasing recordings

Blake Anderson responds to the high-profile case from former player Patrick Maddox in a new legal filing.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah State Aggies head coach Blake Anderson talks with his players during a game on Oct. 1, 2021. Anderson responded with a legal answer in January 2023 to a lawsuit filed by former football player Patrick Maddox alleging retaliation.

Utah State football coach Blake Anderson says he was never told that player Patrick Maddox was allegedly experiencing retaliation after releasing recordings of team meetings — and would have stopped it if he had known, according to a new legal response filed by the coach in the high-profile case.

The recordings first drew widespread attention in 2020 when they were mentioned in a lawsuit filed by student Kaytriauna Flint, who alleged she was raped by another member of the football team and was treated with indifference when she tried to report it to the northern Utah school. She pointed to audio that included Anderson and then USU-police chief Earl Morris making derogatory comments about sex assault victims.

Anderson apologized, and Morris resigned. But Maddox said in his suit filed last year that the fallout continued for him long after — driven by the coach.

The alleged threats and retaliation from both teammates and other coaching staff began when they learned Maddox was the one who recorded and released the audio files — which he felt forced to admit when he said Anderson made him apologize to the team, the complaint states. The player said the reaction got so intense he quit football.

Maddox has said he told Anderson about the allegations outlined in his complaint, including other players stealing and destroying his gear. The coach condoned the behavior, he said, and told the team they could punish him however they “saw fit.”

Anderson has generally disputed Maddox’s claims on social media. The legal response filed last week, though, is the first time the coach has detailed his role in the case.

The filing states: “Anderson affirmatively asserts that neither Maddox nor anyone else ever made Anderson aware of any threats of physical violence directed toward anyone involved in recording team meetings. Anderson further asserts that he would not have tolerated any such threats.”

Utah State University filed a response denying the allegations at the same time as the coach; both are represented by the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Maddox’s attorneys said in a comment Thursday: “Coach Anderson offers a convenient and implausible recollection of critical facts. We look forward to litigating the merits of Mr. Maddox’s lawsuit and bringing more light to the critical issues involved.”

Anderson’s recollection

In his response, the coach said he only met with Maddox once, before the player admitted to the team that he had made the recordings — which Anderson says he did encourage Maddox to do “rather than allow speculation to grow.” Anderson acknowledges in the filing that he told Maddox he was disappointed — something Maddox also said in his lawsuit.

Anderson’s account also matched Maddox’s when the coach said in his response that he stopped the player from talking about Flint, who is Maddox’s friend, as Maddox tried to explain why me made the recordings to her support her case.

“He stopped Maddox from speaking because the matter related to a confidential Office of Equity investigation in which Anderson was not involved and a pending lawsuit regarding those matters,” the coach’s response states.

Flint’s lawsuit has since been settled with the school.

But while the coach says he told Maddox he would have to “re-earn” the trust of the team, he said he never encouraged the team to punish Maddox and says he recalls a few members hugging Maddox after the player confessed to making the recordings.

Anderson has previously acknowledged what he said on the recordings from the football team meetings in fall 2021. In one of the recordings, Anderson can be heard telling the team that it “has never been more glamorized to be a victim” of sexual assault and that the football players were a “target to some.”

“And so you don’t need to put yourself in a position that you can create a victim,” he said.

In another, then-USU police Chief Morris told each young man to make sure that when he has sex, that it’s consensual — especially if he is with a Latter-day Saint woman. He warned the team that women of the faith will often tell their bishop, when questioned about it, that sex was nonconsensual because that’s “easier.” They might be “feeling regret,” he continued, for having sex before marriage, which goes against the faith’s teachings of abstinence, so they will say it was assault.

USU later said those meetings occurred a month after football team members participated in a required Title IX sexual misconduct prevention training. Both recordings drew immediate backlash from the community, with many saying there were disgusted and concerned by the comments.

Anderson issued a public statement at the time, apologizing for the remarks. “I regret the words I used, and I apologize to anyone who has bravely come forward with allegations of wrongdoing,” Anderson said.

But behind the scenes, Maddox asserts the coach was irritated about having to approve that apology statement. The coach allegedly told the players that he “had to go address some bulls--- real quick,” according to Maddox’s filing.

In his response, Anderson said he “likely commented” to the team or Maddox about what he said in the recordings — which he said he felt was mischaracterized — and his required response to address it. But he denies remembering exactly what he said.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Patrick Maddox, a former football player at Utah State, is photographed in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Maddox is alleging in a new lawsuit that he was retaliated against after recording a video of a coach and the USU police chief making derogatory comments about sexual assault victims.

After that, Maddox said the coach refused to help him when he tried to report his concerns about the alleged threats. According to his complaint, another coach on the team also told Maddox they would not renew his scholarship because of the recordings.

Anderson denies in his response that Maddox was being considered for a scholarship. He said those decisions were made after the time Maddox had voluntarily left the team.

What the coach wants

The coach is asking for Maddox’s lawsuit to be dismissed and to be awarded the costs for having to defend himself (which is covered by the state), as well as other financial relief.

Anderson also argues he has immunity as a state employee and is not responsible for Maddox’s experience.

Utah State’s response calls for a jury trial. The school agrees that it has a policy against retaliation in its student code of conduct, but it maintains that language doesn’t create “any type of contractual agreement.”

A slew of legal claims have been made against USU over the past few years related to how it has responded to — or failed to respond to — sexual assaults, including the case against former football player Torrey Green, who has since been sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting six women while he was a student at the Logan school. He is now asking for a new trial.

Maddox and Flint have been the first to challenge USU, though, since its pledged reforms following the U.S. Department of Justice investigating the school in 2020 for failing to properly handle assault reports.

In the fallout from Maddox’s filing, USU President Noelle Cockett has announced she will be stepping down this summer. USU Athletic Director John Hartwell also resigned; he apologized shortly after for a video that surfaced showing him telling a vulgar joke. The video was referenced in a letter from alumni concerned about how Maddox was allegedly treated.