Just two days before the University of Tennessee was scheduled to file a response to allegations in the Title IX lawsuit brought against the school by eight unnamed plaintiffs, attorneys representing UT agreed to the terms of a settlement worth $2.48 million.
The lawsuit alleges that Tennessee created an atmosphere that is hostile to women and showed deliberate indifference when athletes were accused of crimes, specifically sexual assault.
In a press release concerning the decision to settle, the University admitted no guilt and said it has plans to add six positions to its staff relating to Title IX education. It also plans on instituting an independent commission to review Title IX and sexual assault prevention programs within the University.
Following Tuesday’s decision, UT Board of Trustees vice chair Raja Jubran said, “One side ultimately would have won in court several years from now, and we felt confident about our legal position, but I truly believe that both sides would have lost.”
Negotiations for a settlement in the suit began before it was actually filed on February 24th but the current settlement negotiations began in April. The school estimated that the full cost of the suit if it were taken to trial and litigated to the fullest extent, would have cost up to $5.5 million and could have further damaged the reputation of the University.
Half of the total settlement is set to be paid by Tennessee’s athletic department while the remaining half will be paid by UT Knoxville’s academic institution using money that does not include student tuition, donor funds, or taxpayer dollars.
Although, to this point, Tennessee has used state funds to pay $220,862.82 to Neal & Harwell, a Nashville-based law firm, for their services defending UT.
Six different school officials including president Joe DiPietro and chancellor Jimmy Cheek approved of the settlement. Additionally, Tennessee state Attorney General Herbert Slattery III, Comptroller Justin Wilson, and Governor Bill Haslam signed off on the agreement.
The settlement includes the payment of attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs’ lawyer, David Randolph Smith. Details on how exactly the money will be divided have not yet been released.
According to an attorney who spoke with FOX Sports Knoxville, legal fees in similar suits range from 33 percent to 40 percent on average. Using this estimate, the plaintiffs will likely receive approximately $186,000 to $207,000 each.