Columns » Queer & There

Former Colorado College athlete claims head coach’s sexual and homophobic comments drove him from the team



Coach Partee singled out Miller (pictured) for his appearance and mannerisms. - GRACE FISHBACK
  • Grace Fishback
  • Coach Partee singled out Miller (pictured) for his appearance and mannerisms.
Jacob Miller, a senior at Colorado College, frequently dyes his hair. He’s donned a variety of colors: pink, blue, maroon and streaks of blond. Miller also sports a nose ring and ear piercings from the earlobe to the cartilage. His arrival at CC marked the beginning of a constant aesthetic transformation.

Before CC, “I was way more heteronormative,” Miller says. “I got my first tattoo freshman year, first piercing sophomore year.” Miller’s appearance has continued to change throughout his time at CC.

These details are critical because Miller is a former varsity basketball player for the CC Tigers, and his changing appearance always stood out to Andy Partee, the team’s head coach, who just finished his 12th season. Miller recalls Partee saying things like, “You’re looking pretty today,” or “Don’t go all fruity on me,” in response to Miller’s changes. Although at first Miller laughed these comments off, it was just the beginning of what he describes as “a person in power trying to ostracize me by the way I look and talk and act.”

Some of Miller’s former teammates witnessed Partee’s remarks. Yiannis Margetis, a CC senior, former member of the basketball team and close friend of Miller’s says, “I’ve heard him comment on his piercing, his tattoos, his hair color. I’ve heard [Partee] call him European, fruity.” Margetis says Partee uttered these words, which can perhaps be defined as “microaggressions,” regularly.

Some students also witnessed not-so-regular instances of verbal abuse. Margetis recalls an instance during practice when one of the assistant coaches told the team, “You have got to get your dick on his leg while you’re defending.” Gesturing toward Miller, Partee responded, “We have one guy who would really like that, right, Jake?” Ryan Young, another former teammate and close friend of Miller’s, also recalled this event. It was “the big moment that went way too far,” Young says.

Miller responded to these attacks by going to his assistant coaches. Miller says the assistants would talk to Partee, and the comments would subside for a week or two, until they inevitably returned. Miller says, “Teammates would come up to me and say, ‘I don’t know how the fuck you deal with this.”’

Across more than 1,100 NCAA-affiliated colleges and universities, Miller is not the only one who has dealt with verbal abuse. Similar conflicts have occurred across many NCAA Division I programs within the last year: The head basketball coach at Siena College resigned last April after the college announced an investigation into allegations of verbal abuse. Months later, the University of Maryland made national news when administrators placed head coach DJ Durkin on leave due to allegations of extreme “player mistreatment.” Miller’s experiences demonstrate that player mistreatment is not simply a problem in the highly competitive NCAA Division I. Allegations of coaches crossing the line from “pushing” or “teasing” to verbally abusing players have become more and more common across all levels of athletics, even within Colorado College’s NCAA Division III.

In the fall of 2017, his junior year, Miller decided the harassment had gone far enough when the team was at an annual charity dinner. Miller showed up to the dinner with the intention of avoiding his head coach and staying near his friends on the team. But according to Miller, Partee got a moment alone with him.

Miller recalls Partee saying, “You know, you’re looking pretty today.” Partee then told him, “we would call people like you a fag or queer.” Miller claims that Partee denies having said this. Partee did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls soliciting his comments.

After his encounter with Partee at the dinner, Miller sent an email to Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler, describing the verbal abuse as well as asking her to take action. Miller, however, did not want to disrupt the basketball team mid-season, and thus it was not until the spring of Miller’s junior year, 2018, that a Title IX investigation against Partee commenced.

The investigation took roughly two months to complete, including interviews with Miller, Partee, assistant coaches and Miller’s teammates. Documents provided by investigators show that Partee was ultimately found “responsible” for the abuse, and given a sanction. Colorado College’s public relations office said they cannot comment on Title IX investigations, and so could not confirm nor deny these details.

Finding Partee “responsible” is what Miller expected, as he claims that at least three-quarters of the team testified as witnesses to Partee’s verbal abuse in addition to Miller’s own testimony. What was not expected was the subsequent sanction Partee faced. Miller says he was told by Title IX investigators that Partee received an undisclosed pay cut and probation.

Miller and many members of the basketball team believe the sanction was not enough. They believe that, due to Partee’s probation, Partee will be dismissed if he receives one more strike. Colorado College’s PR office would not comment on their understanding of the situation. However, former athletic director Ken Ralph disputes that probation and an undisclosed pay cut were the only consequences Partee faced, questioning whether Miller knew every detail of the sanction.

“Jake doesn’t know,” Ralph says, “It was not just a slap on the wrist.” Yet he declined to confirm or deny Miller’s understanding that the sanction consisted of a pay cut and probation. “HR stuff is very confidential,” Ralph says.
Title IX coordinator Gail Murphy-Geiss, however, confirms that the reporting party, Miller, received all details of Partee’s sanction.

Miller and his teammates were particularly bothered by the lack of suspension or termination of Partee because this was not the first time a team had complained about Partee’s behavior.

In 2015, the men’s basketball team presented a seven-page document to Ralph. The document included descriptions of Partee’s shortcomings as a coach and a motivator, and highlighted his verbal abuse of players. This included Partee singling out players based on their perceived intelligence, specifically a player referred to as “Bear,” the nickname for Andrew Maddock. “He would make remarks about my intelligence,” Maddock says. “I would say he really personally attacked me.” Maddock quit the team and eventually transferred from the school, partly due to the humiliation he faced.

Furthermore, the 2015 document, which was obtained by the Independent, alleged that Partee had made sexually explicit comments and homophobic comments. This was before the abuse toward Miller started; Miller was still a high school senior at the time.

Partee has not been said to display discriminatory behavior toward all of his players. Young says, “[Partee] was always nice and respectful to me. I never had any problems with how he treated me.” Young, however, became more concerned with Partee’s behavior toward Miller.

Following the Title IX case, Miller and his teammates went to Ralph, presenting a document to Ralph similar to the one the 2015 basketball team leadership presented. It showed that Miller has support from his former teammates; it is viewed as a team-wide issue rather than an individual issue with Miller.

While former players such as Margetis, Maddock, Young and Miller were available for interviews, Miller claims that approximately eight to 10 players who went to the team meeting with Ralph were still a part of the team during the 2018 season, which may explain why most declined to be interviewed. Communicating through Miller, many apparently expressed a fear of negatively affecting team chemistry.

Ralph suggests that Miller took action too late. “Nobody came to Greg [Capell, assistant athletic director] or myself. Nothing happened until May,” he says, though Ralph acknowledges that Partee’s behavior triggered “significant, demonstrable concerns.”

The conflicts between coaches and players across the NCAA has perhaps often been disregarded as “locker room talk,” or “boys being boys.” Recent media attention surrounding instances of player abuse suggest that schools are beginning to take such allegations seriously, yet many would say more work needs to be done.

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