LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) – New Mexico State women’s basketball Director of Operations George Ross Jr. was at the center of a Title IX investigation conducted by the university in the summer of 2022, according to a report published Friday by ESPN.
According to the report, ESPN obtained school records via open records requests that showed Ross Jr. had sexually harassed a student who worked at the Pan American Center in the summer of 2022. The report was officially filed with the Title IX office on July 14, 2022.
KTSM has filed its own open records request with NMSU to obtain a copy of the Title IX report detailing what happened. NMSU told KTSM on Friday that it would respond no later than May 5, 2023, regarding the request for the Title IX investigation.
Sources told KTSM on Friday that while Ross Jr. stayed on staff during the 2022-23 season under first-year coach Jody Adams, his contract was not renewed for the 2023-24 season and will expire on April 30.
According to ESPN’s report, the student worked as a janitor at the Pan American Center. In July, 2022, when she was vacuuming Ross Jr.’s office, he asked her if she wanted to hang and began “pushing” to take her out for a beer, according to the report.
The student told investigators that she attempted to deflect, eventually going to clean a different office. However, according to the report, Ross Jr. followed her and continued to ask three or four more times for a date and told her, “Don’t forget what I said.”
The student felt threatened, then told her co-worker about the incident. Per the report, that co-worker then took the story to the Title IX office on July 14.
Per the report, upon reviewing the case Title IX deputy coordinator Annamarie DeLovato gave Ross Jr. a warning four days after opening the case and issued a no-contact order that forbade him from interacting with the student. Ross Jr. told DeLovato that he described the interaction as, “well-intended small talk.”
ESPN’s report says that DeLovato wrote in her report that Ross Jr.’s actions did not rise to the level of violating NMSU’s nondiscrimination policy. However, notes in the case file said that one unidentified person interviewed by the Title IX office said that Ross Jr.’s actions should prevent him from coaching or being around other women, according to ESPN’s report.
The report also indicated that the university is still currently investigating three other complaints of sexual harassment or abuse from reported incidents at the Pan American Center. It was not immediately clear if any or all of those complaints are related to Title IX investigations currently being conducted by the school as a result of sexual assault allegations levied against multiple former members of the NMSU men’s basketball team by two of their former teammates.
The Title IX investigation centered around Ross Jr. occurred at the same time that alleged sexual assaults by members of the NMSU men’s basketball team began, according to a lawsuit filed by Deuce Benjamin, his father William and Shakiru Odunewu on Wednesday.
Per that lawsuit, the alleged assaults were perpetrated by former NMSU players Kim Aiken Jr., Doctor Bradley and Deshawndre Washington against their teammates Benjamin and Odunewu. The assaults allegedly began in the summer of 2022 and continued until February of 2023, when a report was filed with NMSU police that resulted in the 2022-23 men’s basketball season being shut down and head coach Greg Heiar being fired.
Heiar and his former associate head coach Dominique Taylor are also named in the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, as the Benjamins and Odunewu allege that they knew about the assaults as early as Nov. 12, 2022, and never did anything to stop them or prevent them from happening.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case at this time, but it has been referred to the New Mexico Attorney General for possible criminal charges.
KTSM reached out to New Mexico State University for an official comment regarding the Title IX investigation into Ross Jr., but has not received a statement as of Friday afternoon. The school would not comment on the other ongoing Title IX investigations that occurred at the Pan American Center, citing federal privacy laws.