Former athletic director faces criticism over allegations of misconduct

Media Credit: hatchet file photo

Former athletic director Patrick Nero has come under fire following various allegations of misconduct toward players and athletic department staff detailed in a Deadspin article published Thursday.

Updated: Nov. 15, 2018 at 8:46 p.m.

Former athletic director Patrick Nero has come under fire following various allegations of misconduct toward former players and athletic department staff detailed in a Deadspin article published Thursday.

The article cites former coaches, athletic department staff members and players, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity. The sources said that Nero, who resigned from his post in December, allegedly engaged in “strange” social relationships with students, gave certain athletes preferential treatment and consumed alcohol to excess on trips with staff members in the athletic department.

A video obtained from an anonymous source and published by Deadspin depicts Nero making “obscene gestures” and straddling an individual that the publication identified as a 2017 graduate. Nero is shown in the video making a “V” shape with his fingers and holding them up to his mouth and sticking out his tongue while sitting on the lap of the recent graduate.

Media credit: Deadspin

Nero did not immediately return a request for comment.

Athletic department spokesman Brian Sereno said the department’s focus should be on the “here and now.”

“The University takes seriously the safety and well-being of its students, including student-athletes, and it carefully and thoughtfully reviewed concerns raised in the past regarding its athletics program,” Sereno said in an email. “The athletics program, under new AD Tanya Vogel, is thriving and its leadership is deeply committed to the student-athlete experience.”

When Nero officially left the department on Dec. 31, he said he wanted to allow for “fresh perspectives and ideas” and pursue the “next phase” of his career. Nero was replaced by Tanya Vogel, who was then serving as the department’s senior associate athletic director and deputy Title IX coordinator, in the interim. Vogel officially took on the role in April.

A University spokeswoman declined to comment on what the University’s role was in investigating Nero’s alleged misconduct and whether it would investigate the allegations further, deferring to Sereno.

Nero spent more than six years at the helm of the University’s athletic department. Nero – who was set to remain in the position until 2021 – oversaw an increase in the athletic department’s budget and had 13 teams win championships during his time in Foggy Bottom, but the latter part of his tenure was also marred by controversy within the department.

Nero was named in a sex discrimination lawsuit filed against GW in September 2017 that alleged he treated his executive assistant unlawfully by paying her about $40,000 less than a male employee in an equal position. But Sereno, the athletic department spokesman, said at the time that the lawsuit did not influence Nero’s decision to step down.

The men’s basketball team, GW’s most prominent program, also saw turnover in the months before Nero’s departure. Former head coach Mike Lonergan was fired in September 2016 after The Washington Post reported allegations that he verbally abused his players and created an uncomfortable environment from several anonymous players.

One of the complaints claimed that the coach had made repeated graphic remarks about Nero, including that Nero requested video footage from the team’s practice “so he could masturbate while viewing them in his office.”

The University launched an independent Title IX investigation with outside council to assess the allegations, but stayed quiet about the investigation until Lonergan was dismissed. Lonergan then said he would “seek appropriate relief” for his termination, threatening a lawsuit against the University, which was later settled for an undisclosed amount.

The article published by Deadspin Thursday further describes an alleged “feud” between Lonergan and Nero over VIP seats, social media posts and Nero’s relationships with players.

Lonergan did not immediately return a request for comment.

Editor’s note:
This post was updated to include context about why Nero said he left his position from a University release published at the time.

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