Investigation: Ex-Cal coach Yann Hufnagel admits trying to solicit reporter for sex

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Alleged sexual harassment that led to the firing of a California assistant basketball coach involved a female journalist who was sent sexual innuendo-filled text messages and whom the coach acknowledged "trying to trick" into his apartment after a game, according to an investigative report released Tuesday.

Written findings from the university's seven-month investigation of former assistant men's basketball coach Yann Hufnagel show the inquiry was opened after the reporter sent head coach Cuonzo Martin an email detailing the unwelcome advances. The reporter had also communicated her concerns to Martin by phone six weeks earlier, according to the report.

The allegations included an encounter with Hufnagel in the parking garage of his apartment building a year ago.

The woman told campus investigators that she met Hufnagel at a downtown Berkeley bar after a game, agreed to give him a ride home because he said he was too drunk to drive and felt frightened when he refused to let her out of the remote-controlled garage as she spurned his increasingly explicit overtures.

"Are you thinking I'm going to have sex with you?" she recalled asking Hufnagel, who was her main source for team news.

"Yes," he responded, the report states.

"Not going to happen ... You and I are professional colleagues ... Not interested in you," the woman said she replied.

The names of the reporter and the news organization she worked for were blacked out from the findings made public Tuesday, a day after the investigation was completed and Martin moved to fire Hufnagel, 33.

During his interview with the investigators from UC Berkeley's office for the prevention of harassment and discrimination, Hufnagel disputed several details of the woman's account.

He said he didn't drink at the bar that night and that he drove her to his building garage, where he planned to park on the top of a double-decker spot.

"With all candor, I was trying to trick her into going upstairs," Hufnagel said, according to the report.

He told investigators that he asked her several times to go up to his apartment, then drove her back to her car when she declined. After that, he realized the reporter was "a total ditz" and "not a good fit," the report states.

The report states that Hufnagel acknowledged wanting to have sex with the woman but did not think his behavior was inappropriate because she did not work for the university. He characterized their relationship as flirtatious and said she never had given him any indication the "locker room" texts he sent her were unwelcome.

The journalist told investigators that she felt trapped into tolerating Hufnagel's behavior over a period of six months because she relied on him as her "singular" source of news about Cal's basketball program.

After she rebuffed him, she said, he stopped providing her with information and she was let go from her reporting assignment.

UC Berkeley also will be reviewing Martin's role in reporting the allegations to the university.

"To dispel any doubts about Coach Martin's role, the university will be initiating a review of all of the documents and communications related to his actions," athletic director Mike Williams told the San Francisco Chronicle in a statement late Tuesday night. "We firmly believe the results will support our confidence in Coach Martin."

Hufnagel is at least the fourth UC Berkeley employee in the past year to face sexual harassment allegations that were substantiated during campus investigations.

UC spokesman Dan Mogulof said Hufnagel would be paid until the termination proceedings initiated Monday are completed.

Hufnagel's contract gives him eight days to respond to the move, and the firing will not be final if he chooses to contest it, Mogulof said.

Hufnagel told ESPN on Monday that he was "crushed" by his termination.

"I can't believe it. I'm blindsided," Hufnagel said. "I never imagined this would be the outcome.

"Cal has been incredibly slow-moving in the process. I'm in the process of hiring a legal team to exonerate my name."

Hufnagel joined the Golden Bears' staff in 2014 after Martin was hired. Before coming to Cal, Hufnagel spent one season at Vanderbilt and four seasons at Harvard. He also was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma, where he worked with Blake Griffin. Hufnagel built a reputation as an impressive recruiter who helped compile highly ranked recruiting classes at each of his stops.

"You're talking about a guy who's part of your staff and a family member," Martin, who is in his second year coaching Cal, told reporters Monday during a conference call. "We continue to push forward. It's not an easy thing, but we'll find our way."

The fourth-seeded Golden Bears play in the NCAA tournament Friday against Hawaii.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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