Coach won’t be fired from job or punished for homophobic remark
A third-party investigation into a former Colorado Mesa University baseball player’s claim that he was subjected to homophobic remarks in college concluded that CMU assistant baseball coach Sean McKinney made an anti-gay comment in Tyler Dunnington’s presence in 2014.
CMU President Tim Foster held a joint news conference Thursday with McKinney and Dave Montez, the director of One Colorado, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights nonprofit organization, to announce the results of the investigation.
The investigation was sparked by a story on Outsports.com in which Dunnington alleged an unnamed college coach said, “We kill gay people in Wyoming,” among other homophobic threats he heard during his time in college and a one-year stint in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league organization.
Dunnington did not come out as gay until after his playing career ended in 2014. Dunnington played for the Mavericks in 2013 and 2014 after transferring from the College of Southern Idaho.
A report of the investigation was obtained by The Daily Sentinel. Dunnington did not speak with investigators.
CMU said it will not fire McKinney for the remark.
“Rather than shying away from (his comment), he owned up to it and took it on directly, realizing that ... it could cost him his job and certainly his reputation in the community,” Foster said of McKinney.
He added McKinney will not face punishment, saying the coach “has gone through a lot of repercussions,” and “the best thing to focus on (is) going forward.”
McKinney made a comment similar to Dunnington’s allegations while discussing the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten and tortured near Laramie and later died at a hospital in Fort Collins.
The investigation, conducted by Grand Junction law firm John Williams Legal LLC, concluded the remark was “a poor attempt at a humorous comeback about (McKinney’s) home state.”
McKinney, who is from Laramie and was a sophomore in high school when Shepard was killed, apologized for the remark during the news conference. McKinney did not take questions from the media.
“That is not who I am as a person, and I would never intentionally hurt anyone,” Mc- Kinney said. “My family, friends and people who know me, know that is not who I am and does not reflect my true character. I talked with Tyler this morning and apologized to him as well. I have always thought of myself as a coach that the players can come to for any reason, and in this instance I fell short.”
McKinney oversees recruiting in the Rocky Mountain and southwestern regions and works with hitters and infielders. McKinney received his undergraduate degree from Colorado Mesa University and was a two-year starter for the Maverick baseball program in 2005 and 2006.
McKinney said he had lunch with Foster, Montez, One Colorado’s Western Slope field organizer Heidi Hess, CMU Director of Marketing Mike Mansheim, CMU Associate Athletic Director Kris Mort and two students from CMU’s Gay Straight Alliance to discuss LGBT issues and what the school can do moving forward.
McKinney told an investigator he did make a statement “like that” during a conversation with players about Wyoming, but it was not directed at Dunnington.
He added he had little contact with Dunnington, a pitcher, because McKinney coaches infielders. McKinney said he does not remember the exact words he used, other than he was certain he didn’t use the word “we.”
McKinney said he more likely said “that is what happens in Wyoming.” He said the comment was made as part of a humorous exchange and not meant to be offensive, according to the report.
The investigator also interviewed CMU head baseball coach Chris Hanks, who said he was unaware of the comment and that he has no tolerance for bigoted behavior.
He pointed to an episode two years ago when he dismissed a player from the team over a racial incident.
Hanks said McKinney is not homophobic and is quick to joke with players, calling him quick-witted.
Hanks also relayed a story about Dunnington’s final year with CMU, when Hanks, for reasons unspecified in the report, removed Dunnington from the roster before the Mavericks played in the 2014 NCAA Division II National Championship tournament in Cary, North Carolina.
Hanks allowed Dunnington to travel with the team, but Dunnington asked to leave before a semifinal game. Colorado Mesa University purchased an airline ticket for Dunnington to return to Grand Junction.
The investigator said John Marshall, CMU’s vice president for student affairs, contacted Dunnington after the allegations were made. Marshall said Dunnington told him he had “a good experience” as a student-athlete at Colorado Mesa, according to the report.
Marshall said Dunnington did not identify the coach who made the remark and said Dunnington didn’t want to single out any coach or team. Marshall said Dunnington’s main concern was raising awareness for gay athletes.
Marshall said Dunnington told him he did not disclose his sexual orientation to coaches or teammates.
The investigator spoke to current Colorado Mesa baseball players Tyler Ehlers, Kyle Serrano, Davis Cantwell, Joey Samuels and Josh Ballard. All denied hearing McKinney’s comment.
The investigator also spoke to former CMU baseball player Austin Kaiser, who played with Dunnington in 2013 and 2014 and was recently hired as an assistant athletic director at the university.
Kaiser said he wasn’t aware of McKinney’s comment and said the team is like a family.
The investigation concluded “the easy decision” would be to “discharge” McKinney, as no explanation would be needed by the media or general public.
It continued to say, however, there is no definitive proof McKinney made the remark as it was reported by Outsports.com and recommended discipline or education and training as a suitable punishment, rather than terminating McKinney’s employment.