Sports News

Lions coach Patricia denies 1996 sexual-assault allegation

Matt Patricia denied 22-year-old allegations of sexual assault on Wednesday, and the Detroit Lions issued a statement standing by their new head coach.

File photo: Jan 29, 2018; St. Paul, MN, USA; New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (right) is interviewed by Deion Sanders (left) during Super Bowl LII Opening Night at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit News reported Wednesday that Patricia, then a football player for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one of his friends were accused of sexually assaulting a woman in South Padre Island, Texas, during spring break in 1996.

Patricia, then 21, and Greg Dietrich, then 22, were arrested and later indicted by a grand jury on a count of sexual assault, per the newspaper report. The charges later were dropped without a trial when the woman declined to testify, according to the News.

Patricia released a statement Wednesday through the Lions that read, “As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation.

“I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done. I would never condone any of the behavior that was alleged and will always respect and protect the rights of anyone who has been harassed or is the victim of violence.

“My priorities remain the same -- to move forward and strive to be the best coach, teacher, and man that I can possibly be.”

Lions team owner Martha Ford, president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn put out a joint statement that read, in part, “There was no settlement agreement with the complaining individual (regarding the alleged assault), no money exchanged hands and there was no confidentiality agreement. In discussions today with Lions management, the (Detroit News) reporter involved acknowledged that the allegations have not been substantiated.

“As an organization, The Detroit Lions take allegations regarding sexual assault or harassment seriously. Coach Patricia was the subject of a standard pre-employment background check which did not disclose this issue. We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time. Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia’s explanation and we will continue to support him.

“We will continue to work with our players and the NFL to further awareness of and protections for those individuals who are the victims of sexual assault or violence.”

Wood also told the News, “I am very comfortable with the process of interviewing and employing Matt. I will tell you with 1,000 percent certainty that everything I’ve learned confirmed what I already knew about the man and would have no way changed our decision to make him our head coach.”

Patricia was an assistant coach with the New England Patriots from 2004-2017, spending the past six years as the team’s defensive coordinator. He helped lead the club to three Super Bowl championships and six Super Bowl appearances.

--Field Level Media