'The process worked': CMU responds to transfer QB Jett Duffey's recruitment, Texas Tech sexual assault complaints
Jett Duffey sifted through the NCAA transfer portal, searching for an opportunity to continue playing college football.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound quarterback began his pursuit Dec. 13, the day he decided to transfer from the Red Raiders as a graduate with immediate eligibility after starting the final eight games of the 2019 season.
Duffey threw for 2,840 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions with a 65.1 completion percentage. The team finished the campaign 4-8 overall.
For mid-major level teams, Duffey's production and athleticism while operating as a quarterback in the Big 12 would typically be highly coveted. Some coaches might even change their schematics to fit his style, using a spread offense that emphasizes the run-pass option.
Duffey was a perfect fit for the Chippewas, led by former SEC coach Jim McElwain. He announced his transfer Jan. 18 to play in Mount Pleasant.
Duffey was twice suspended from Texas Tech's football team, arrested once and involved in two Title IX sexual assault cases, one of which he was deemed responsible.
"We were made aware of the allegations through that process and through the recruiting process," said CMU President Bob Davies. "We are committed to the safety and integrity of all students.
"This is a demonstration of that process working."
The most recent allegation was that Duffey raped a fellow Texas Tech student, Chloe O'Rear, in 2019. He was on the football roster throughout the case and there was not an announced suspension of any type.
The 2019 Title IX case ended in mediation, meaning all parties agreed to participate in a voluntary resolution.
“If a school was motivated to bury something, getting it into mediation is probably the best way to do that,” said Colorado-based attorney John Clune, who has represented women in sexual assault cases against high-profile athletes, including Kobe Bryant, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and professional baseball player Johan Santana. “Generally speaking, that’s the optimal way for a school to make something go away quietly – to get everyone to sign on the dotted line.”
Based on conversations with McElwain and the Chippewa coaching staff, Duffey announced his commitment to Central Michigan on Jan. 18 and was expected to be the frontrunner to win the 2020 starting gig.
"Jett Duffey committed on social media that he was coming to Central Michigan University," Davies said. "At that time, he had not applied to the institution and he never signed a national letter of intent. He went through the admissions process and was denied admission. The process worked."
Central Michigan wasn't the first institution to deny Duffey's application.
Duffey originally planned on attending Tulane, announcing his transfer to the Green Wave on Jan. 10. Two days later, that was no longer the case.
“I have decided to keep my recruitment open and continue to look for a new home,” Duffey wrote on his Twitter account, which has since been deleted. “I would like to wish the Tulane football program the best of luck during their upcoming season, and to thank them for believing in me.”
Duffey apparently did not meet Tulane's academic qualifications.
Eight days later, Duffey announced his transfer to Central Michigan. ESPN reported Duffey "would meet the requirements for admission" at CMU. He visited the athletic department in January, but his application for admission was denied.
“They do a great job," said athletic director Michael Alford. "The process worked. We turned it over. I wasn’t involved in it. They came back and made a recommendation.”
When McElwain began recruiting Duffey, he was aware the quarterback was found responsible in a 2017 Title IX sexual assault investigation and arrested in 2018.
Duffey's arrest was for a disturbance in front of a nightclub in Lubbock for criminal mischief. His Title IX case found him responsible for two counts of sexual assault against an incapacitated woman. The 2017 Title IX case was not prosecuted by a grand jury due to insufficient evidence. Formal charges for his actions that led to his 2018 arrest, punching a hole in the wall of ULofts, were rejected by the Lubbock Criminal District Attorney.
The quarterback was suspended for the 2017 spring and summer semesters. He was also suspended from team activities for one week by head coach Kliff Kingsbury for the 2018 arrest.
"We had totally looked at whatever was out there," McElwain said. "Obviously, whether that had something to do with it or the initial academic pieces through the admission for every student, that’s what it was. It was denial of admission.”
But what wasn't out there made a difference in Duffey's ability to attend Central Michigan.
It was the 2019 Title IX case.
O'Rear, the woman that said she was raped by Duffey, emailed Alford with the incident report and mediation agreement, which said Duffey needed to attend a sexual harassment training program, get a psychological evaluation and give a verbal apology.
The email from O'Rear was sent to Alford on Jan. 20, but Alford never replied to her. O'Rear didn't know if he received the email.
"Any student, especially any student-athlete, that’s coming here has to go through the university process to be admitted," Alford said. "I turn it over to the professionals."
McElwain sought out Duffey since he needed a quarterback with immediate eligibility for the 2020 season, much like when he brought in graduate transfer Quinten Dormady from Houston for the 2019 campaign.
He said the interest often becomes a "two-way street" once a player enters the NCAA transfer portal.
McElwain then brought the idea of Duffey's transfer to Alford. The athletic director evaluated the situation and turned it over to Davies, who jumpstarted the admissions process.
But between McElwain's initial contact with Duffey and Alford informing Davies, the graduate transfer quarterback visited the university, received an offer and publicly joined the team.
Yet, he wasn't even admitted.
"I mean, we have all kinds of students that commit to us and don’t get into school," Alford said. "We turn it over to the professionals, let them do their work, get recommendation and go from there.”
McElwain compared Duffey's scenario similar to the 2,473 new freshmen this academic year.
“Like any student when they apply to school here," McElwain said, "they’ve got to go through some things through the admissions program."
Duffey's lawyer responds, Texas Tech stays silent
Since the 2019 Texas Tech sexual assault case ended in mediation, neither Duffey nor O'Rear were assigned "blame or responsibility." Besides going through Title IX, O'Rear also filed a report with the Lubbock Police Department, but the district attorney said charges wouldn't be pressed due to insufficient evidence.
The quarterback was "not found responsible for any misconduct," according to the document from Texas Tech's Office for Student Rights and Resolution provided by Duffey's attorney, Chuck Lanehart.
This was because the case ended in mediation and was not fully investigated.
Before publication of the story that uncovered O'Rear's case against Duffey, Lanehart declined to comment. The same day as its publication, Lanehart reached out to Central Michigan Life and changed his mind. He decided to give his response.
"Jett Duffey is a talented and gifted athlete," Lanehart wrote in a text message. "He deserves a chance to continue his college playing career. It is true he was accused of Title IX allegations, and he has always maintained his innocence. Texas Tech authorities found him not responsible for the 2019 allegation. He has never faced criminal charges or been arrested in regard to these allegations."
To this point, Texas Tech has remained silent on the newly discovered Title IX case.
The only action taken by the university was recently deleting Duffey's 2019 player profile from its athletics website, thus removing him from last season's roster. Following the publication of this story, as of Feb. 17, Texas Tech put Duffey, who wore No. 7 for the Red Raiders, back on the 2019 roster.
Despite initially recruiting a Title IX sexual assault offender, the admissions process stopped Duffey from enrolling at Central Michigan.
"I thought CMU handled it very, very well," said Trustee Todd Anson, a member of the CMU Board of Trustees. "President Davies was right on top of that as was athletic director Michael Alford.
"I thought they got the right outcome."