Now-former women’s basketball coach Jamie Pewinski was the subject of a Title IX investigation into whether or not she had a “romantic relationship” with a student, according to university documents.
Pewinski resigned on Nov. 14, two games into the 2018-19 season. In an email the day before to SVSU Athletic Director John Decker, she cited a lack of support and guidance from administration as reasons she would not take Decker up on an offer to return to the team after the investigation, which cleared her of any Title IX violations.
The report detailing the investigation, obtained by The Valley Vanguard, stated that on Oct. 21, 2018, SVSU “became aware of concerns” that Pewinski “may have engaged in a romantic or sexual relationship with an SVSU student who was also a member of the women’s basketball team.”
Subsequent concerns were brought forth that then-assistant coach and now-interim head coach Ryan Trevithick had “engaged in retaliation against the women’s basketball team member who disclosed the concerns about Coach Pewinski by suspending that player from certain team activities,” the report stated.
Both allegations would have constituted violations of Title IX, which is a federal law mandating that no one be discriminated against in the education system on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The investigation into Pewinski was conducted by an outside vendor, according to J.J. Boehm, the director of media and community relations.
Concerns of a relationship between Pewinski and a women’s basketball player were raised because of “favoritism behavior” the player received from Pewinski, the amount of time the player and Pewinski spent together and the “affectionate things” they said to each other in text messages, including “I love you,” the report stated.
During the investigation, the entire women’s basketball team, Pewinski and assistant coaches Luke Lloyd and Trevithick were interviewed, the report stated. Witnesses said consistently that they had no concerns about a romantic relationship between Pewinski and a player, the report stated.
The report stated it was “clear” that the concerns about a potential relationship between Pewinski and a player “were based on favoritism-type treatment” and “not on any actual romantic or sexual behavior that was observed.”
The report determined Pewinski “did not engage in prohibited sexual misconduct and did not violate the Policy.”
During the investigation, another women’s basketball player told investigators “she was concerned that she may have been removed from practice and several games in retaliation for disclosing concerns about the relationship,” the report stated.
The player in question sent a men’s basketball player a text message on Oct. 20 stating “Pewinski was dating a player on the team,” the report stated. It also stated that the player who raised concerns about retaliation against her had confessed her feelings to the men’s basketball player, “at which point the male player told her that he was interested” in the player referenced as having an alleged relationship with Pewinski.
The report stated evidence indicated the women’s player who sent the text “made the statements to explain to the male player why she thought (the player alleged to have been romantically involved with Pewinski) would not be interested in him, and not to indicate she felt either part was engaging in a Policy violation.” The report determined Trevithick “did not engage in prohibited retaliation and did not violate the Policy.”
Both Pewinski and Trevithick were determined not to have violated Title IX through the preponderance of evidence standard, according to Human Resources Director Ellen Crane.
The standard requires “the information supporting a finding of responsibility be more convincing than the information in opposition to it,” the report stated. It also states that, in the case that “the weight of evidence suggesting a violation is equal to or less than the weight of evidence suggesting no violation occurred, the determination will be that no violation occurred.”
“From my experience, it’s the more-standard level of review that’s assigned,” Crane said. “There’s standards that go up to guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, so this is a far-lower standard. I think this is the standard for most universities. … That’s the standard we put into our policy and use in any investigation.”
Pewinski indicated in the email to Decker, which the Vanguard obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that she was concerned with administrators’ lack of support following the investigation’s closure.
She cited a “hostile work environment” with an “administration that still does not give the impression to me or anyone else that I am innocent of charges, even though I have been verbally cleared through the Title IX investigation,” the email stated.
She also felt there was a lack of “future pledge of support if one or more players decides to bring forth another unfounded retaliation claim down the road for any perceived slight that may arise during the season,” the email stated.
Pewinski also wrote she did not want to return to the team because, she wrote, the administration “has said to me my accuser was correct in her allegation in implying that I had a romantic relationship with a player, when documentary and other evidence plainly establish that no such thing occurred and I have been verbally cleared through the Title IX investigation.”
Crane said she could not comment on Pewinski’s statements.
“She wrote it, so we can’t speculate on what she was thinking when she wrote it,” Crane said. Boehm said, “We have her characterization of how she interpreted the situation,” but he offered no further commentary.
Pewinski’s email also stated the administration “has given me no guidance and no evaluation, but continues to say they are concerned with the direction of the program.”
According to Pewinski’s evaluations, which the Vanguard also obtained through FOIA, she was last evaluated by former Athletic Director Mike Watson on June 4, 2015. He did not reference concerns with women’s basketball.
Crane said SVSU’s departmental procedures process “calls for annual evaluations, and they have a follow-up roughly six months after that evaluation.”
“Sometimes, supervisors don’t complete that process, or they have a verbal conversation that they don’t document,” Crane said.
When asked about Pewinski’s concerns about not being evaluated, Decker said, “We follow our departmental procedures.”
He did not elaborate or comment further on Pewinski’s concerns.
Pewinski’s email also mentions that SVSU’s women’s basketball program was the “one program that is not involved in the NCAA investigation into compliance violations.”
The NCAA released a report on Feb. 7 stating that SVSU had 137 “record-keeping violations involving multiple sports and spanning several years.”
Decker said “(Pewinski’s) report is inaccurate” and would not comment further on why or how it was inaccurate.
“That may have been Coach Pewinski’s understanding at the time,” Boehm said. “There has been additional fact-finding since, and there will be more to come, as we work with the NCAA during the 45-day window that has been established. Until the next round of review is complete, we cannot confirm which programs are affected.”
Pewinski ended her email writing that she wanted an “amicable break” from SVSU.
Decker and other administrators said they thought that was achieved.
“I took her at her word that she wanted an amicable split and treated her in a way that I thought was amicable,” Crane said. “I tried to respect her and her decisions and achieve what she requested.”
Reported by Kaitlyn Farley, Vanguard Editor-in-Chief