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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSU’s Gesser denies accusations of sexual misconduct, calls report a ‘non-story’

FILE _ Former WSU QB, Jason Gesser, is shown during his brief coaching stint with the Idaho Vandals in August 2011. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Former Washington State quarterback and current athletic department employee Jason Gesser issued a statement denying that he has had any inappropriate sexual relations with student interns or staff, and wrote that he will not allow his “name to be unfairly smeared.”

Gesser criticized a story published Thursday by the Daily Evergreen, which was based on hundreds of pages of public records that the student newspaper obtained through a request about an investigation conducted by the university. The Spokesman-Review reached out to Gesser on Thursday, but he did not issue his statement to the newspaper until Friday morning.

In it, Gesser wrote that the Daily Evergreen report was a “non-story” about “accusations that were fully investigated by the University and found to be without merit,” adding, “The only thing I care about more deeply than WSU is my family and integrity. I want to clearly state that the allegations are not true. I am categorically opposed to harassment or sexism in the workplace or society, and I am deeply committed to my wife and children.”

The university also issued a statement Thursday in response to the article in the Daily Evergreen. The statement from President Kirk Schulz and Athletic Director Pat Chun said they found “no violation of university policy” regarding an investigation into alleged inappropriate sexual conduct by Gesser, who makes $84,000 a year in his job as the assistant director for athletics for the Cougar Athletic Fund.

The investigation was prompted after employees within the athletics department informed investigators they were made aware of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by Gesser, including some involving student interns. But that probe by the Office for Equal Opportunity found no violation of university policy.

“Throughout the last 20 years of my life, I have unwaveringly supported Washington State University as a WSU student athlete, proud alumnus, and now employee of the athletic department,” Gesser wrote. “So, I was very disheartened to read the story published in the Evergreen stemming from rumors and unfounded accusations regarding my professional conduct.”

Dylan Greene, 20, is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Evergreen. The senior journalism and media production major from Stanwood, Washington, said his newspaper stands by the story and noted that Gesser did not respond to multiple requests for interviews prior to publication.

“We are not saying he is guilty of anything,” Greene said. “We are reporting straight off public records. These are things that people should know about and be aware of.”

Among the allegations in the documents obtained by the Daily Evergreen were reports that Gesser had sexual relations with an intern who worked for him.

Investigators also interviewed a former WSU employee who worked for the athletic department with Gesser. According to the records obtained by the student newspaper, Gesser made unsolicited advances toward his female colleague during a dinner in Pullman.

“I don’t remember exactly all the exchange, but there was an advancement to kiss me, which caught me off guard, nor did I lean in or encourage that,” she said in the records. “It was purely one-sided.”

The former employee also said Gesser sent her several “suggestive” texts, including once inviting her to his hotel room while on the road.

“They were suggestive of sexual things,” she told investigators according to the Daily Evergreen. “I can say confidently suggestive.”

The unidentified former employee, who said she worked in a job below Gesser in the athletics hierarchy, also told investigators that she “never felt harassed or assaulted” by her interactions with Gesser.

For the past four football seasons, Gesser had been working the radio booth as an analyst for home and away football broadcasts. But IMG Sports Network, which contracts with WSU, replaced Gesser in August with another former Cougar quarterback, Alex Brink.

Questions about whether the change of radio personalities was related to the allegations were directed to IMG’s Mike Scanlan, who did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

For his part, Gesser said in his statement that he supports the university’s efforts to investigate accusations of sexual impropriety, but he was “disappointed that the unfounded complaints submitted to the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Office of Internal Audits have been made public, needlessly affecting individuals who don’t deserve public scrutiny and criticism.”

“Tellingly, those quoted heavily in the article are not the women unfairly brought into this,” Gesser continued.

“I will not allow my name to be unfairly smeared, and I will continue to passionately serve our University as a proud member of Cougar Nation.”