Termination proceedings begin against Cal men’s basketball assistant coach amid sex harassment allegations

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Yann Hufnagel, right, stands with Cal head basketball coach Cuonzo Martin

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Update 3/15/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information from the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination’s investigative report and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Cal men’s basketball assistant coach Yann Hufnagel has been relieved of his duties and will no longer be a part of the team after a campus investigation found he violated UC sexual harassment policy.

Additionally, termination proceedings have begun, Cal Athletics announced Monday, after UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, or OPHD, released findings that Hufnagel had violated the university’s sexual harassment policy.

The proceedings were initiated by Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin, according to a statement from campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

Recent emails obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, however, identify that Martin knew that a problem existed about two months before Cal Athletics informed the university. This information comes after the report released Tuesday, detailing that the reporter had contacted a “Head Varsity Athletic Coach” in May 2015.

As the team prepares to take part in the NCAA Tournament, Hufnagel will no longer be traveling with the team.

“The issue of how the campus communicates when investigations substantiate allegations of misconduct is among the issues that are being reviewed right now as part of a broader review to prevent and sanction misconduct,” Mogulof said.

According to Cal Athletics spokesperson Wes Mallette, a “series of communications and behaviors” occurred between Hufnagel and a female reporter between November 2014 and May 2015. An investigation by OPHD began in August 2015, Mallette said, and concluded with the release of the report Monday.

The investigation found that Hufnagel began sending sexually harassing communications to her in November 2014 in response to the reporter’s attempts to speak with Hufnagel for work-related purposes. The complainant originally received Hufnagel’s phone number to contact after she was put on the Cal men’s basketball beat.

Because Hufnagel was her only contact on the team, the complainant told investigators, Hufnagel “tried to take advantage of the power imbalance.” She had also asked him to get coffee with her many times, which he continued to delay, at the request of her boss.

In February 2015, the investigation stated, Hufnagel asked the complainant to drive him home after they had met at a local bar, where Hufnagel had “one or two beers.” When the complainant drove into Hufnagel’s parking garage, according to the report, he closed the garage door behind them and asked the complainant to have sex with him, which she refused.

Hufnagel ceased providing the complainant with relevant information after she continually refused his sexual advances, investigators found. According to the report, the complainant was subsequently let go from her reporting job, as she could no longer obtain information pertinent to her beat.

Hufnagel admitted to investigators that he engaged in the conduct the complainant had alleged, including sending sexual innuendos to the complainant via text message. He also told investigators that with “all candor, I was trying to trick her into going upstairs” to his apartment, intending to have sex with her. Hufnagel’s admission, as well as the complainant’s credible account, led OPHD to determine that Hufnagel had more likely than not behaved as alleged.

“Right now, the only focus should be on our basketball team! My time to exonerate myself of a fruitless claim by a reporter will come,” Hufnagel tweeted Monday.

Mogulof could not comment whether the campus community can expect more OPHD investigations to be released, citing confidentiality concerns.

The termination proceedings come after a lawsuit was filed against former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry and the UC Board of Regents last week for sexual harassment. Choudhry, who was formally implicated in violating UC sexual harassment policies by OPHD in July 2015, resigned from his position Thursday.

Mogulof has previously said that the campus is currently handling 17 sexual harassment investigations.

Martin is still employed based on his offer sheet as opposed to a formal contract. Despite earlier reports, the lack of a finalized contract has no relation to the recent announcement.

“The connection is wrong between ongoing contract discussions and the current situation regarding coach Hufnagel are inaccurate,” said a Cal Athletics spokesperson. “We look forward to finalizing a contract (with coach Martin).”

Hufnagel was serving his second season as an assistant coach for Cal and was an important part of the recruiting process of star freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.

In addition, Hufnagel worked extensively with the team’s backcourt, especially senior guard Tyrone Wallace. He received much praise as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt and Harvard universities, coaching athletes such as Jeremy Lin.

“You’re talking about a guy that’s part of your staff and a family member, ’cause we take a tremendous amount of pride in that,” Martin said in a teleconference Monday. “There are always bumps in the road. … We talk to them, and we continue to push forward. It’s not an easy thing, but we will find our way.”

The Bears’ first matchup is this Friday against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in Spokane, Washington, at 11 a.m. PT.

Contact Alaina Getzenberg and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected].