TALLAHASSEE — Florida A&M University - mired in a controversy over hazing for a year now - is investigating whether its head baseball coach mistreated a player on the team.
Coach Willie Brown said he has done nothing wrong, but the university placed Brown on leave last month.
FAMU is not commenting on the move, but documents show that the university acted after a player accused Brown of making degrading comments about his weight and sexual orientation. The player also said the coach intentionally hit baseballs harder to him than other players.
A letter from the university accused Brown of sexual harassment and said an investigation could take until January to finish. But Brown's lawyer says it appears that university police are now investigating whether Brown hazed the player.
Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews said that the coach did not treat the player any differently from anyone else on the team. And he said the coach has gotten sworn statements from other players on the team stating that he did not speak to the player any differently.
Four players also said the person accusing Brown of misconduct threatened to accuse Brown of hazing if he cut him from the team.
"It's very disheartening that I'm being treated like this," Brown told The Associated Press.
Brown added that the player was told back in September — two months before the allegations were made — that he would likely not make the final roster of the baseball team.
Brown's lawyer did not deny that the coach engaged in what he called "sexual banter" on the baseball field but said it is not unlike any other college athletic program.
FAMU officials have moved aggressively against hazing in the wake of the death of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011.
The Marching 100 band was suspended and the fallout over the incident ultimately led to the resignation of both the longtime band director and the band president. The school is being sued by Champion's parents, who say university officials ignored a culture of hazing.
University officials have responded by putting in a long line of new policies, including new requirements for band membership and new requirements for all students at the school.