Published November 14, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The former University of Iowa athletic department official at the center of a sexual harassment investigation had been fired from a previous job at a liberal arts college in South Carolina in 1999, according to records released Wednesday.
Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., dismissed Peter V. Gray after he had worked less than a year as its director of advisement and retention. His supervisor cited "unsatisfactory working results" and vowed she wouldn't rehire him as a result.
"Employment not in the best interest of the institution," is listed as the reason for the termination in the document, released in response to an open records request by The Associated Press. It does not elaborate.
Gray's employment background is significant as Iowa officials investigate the details of sexual harassment claims against him and how they were handled. The firing raises questions about how deeply Iowa dug into his background before putting him in charge of monitoring the academic progression of its student-athletes.
Gray, 59, resigned from Iowa last week after an internal investigation accused him of sexually harassing students and athletes in his job as associate director of athletics student services, which he had held since 2002. The behavior allegedly included overly friendly hugs, massages and other touching that colleagues and students said was unprofessional and made them feel uncomfortable.
The report, obtained by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, also found that Gray gave football tickets to someone outside the university in exchange for nude photographs and had several pictures on his work computer that were "suggestive in nature," including a picture of the men's swimming team he used as a screen saver and two showing individuals engaged in sex acts with toys or stuffed animals.
Gray had worked previously at Iowa from 1993 to 1995, and the report quoted employees as saying his inappropriate behavior dated back to that time.
Critics, including Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City, have questioned why Iowa rehired Gray in 2002 if they were aware of previous concerns. But a top university official defended the hiring decision this week, saying that Gray was an outstanding candidate chosen for the job after beating out several others in a national search.
"I know for a fact that was done absolutely correctly and openly," said N. William Hines, chair of the Presidential Committee on Athletics, which provides oversight of the athletics department.
University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore declined comment Wednesday on the Coastal Carolina records. President Sally Mason is reviewing the Gray case, and the Iowa Board of Regents also is gathering information.
Patricia Sizemore, then Coastal Carolina's vice president of enrollment management, recommended hiring Gray at its academic center in summer 1998. But by January, records show, Sizemore had a conversation to inform Gray that his employment would be ending May 15, before his one-year probationary period ended. "We wish you success in all your future endeavors," she wrote.
Gray had worked at the University of Mississippi athletics department from 1995 to 1998. A school lawyer said Wednesday that it had not turned up any complaints about Gray's behavior or the details of his departure, but that it continues to look.
Gray also worked at Indiana University's athletics department from 1999 to 2002 before returning to Iowa, and representatives there had no immediate comment.
Gray has not responded to messages seeking comment, and nobody answered the door Wednesday at an Iowa City address listed for him.
Hines said that he believed Gray was essential in helping countless athletes keep up with their school work and graduate on time over the last decade. He described him as "the happiest guy in the room, upbeat and kind of uplifting" and quick to dole out inspiration and encouragement. But these days, Hines said, Gray is devastated by the sudden downfall of his career and locked himself away in his home.
"This kind of came as a shock," he said. "From our point of view, this was one of our outstanding counselors who was doing a great job."