At approximately 8:23pm Sunday, according to police documents obtained by RTI, second-year Vols defensive lineman Ryan Thaxton “was involved in a domestic disturbance with his girlfriend” at his dorm. According to the report, “Mr Thaxton insisted his girlfriend accompany him into his dorm room and she refused.” It was at that point the report says “Thaxton pushed and carried her towards his room and blocked the door with his body to prevent her from escaping or contacting help.” Thaxton was arrested and charged with two felonies, Domestic Assault and False Imprisonment.
Thaxton was released on $1,500 bond and has been “suspended from all team activities while law enforcement and the university investigate” according to a UTAD statement.
Thaxton, a former three-star prospect out of Virginia, did not play during his first year at Tennessee and was not projected to be a major contributor in 2018.
The charges come amid years of Federal Title IX investigations into NCAA programs, which accelerated the NCAA’s attempts to appropriately combat the widespread trend of domestic assault by athletes, particularly football players. The NCAA and University overseers have been driving coaches and administrators to evolve the way these cases are handled and punished, towards more transparency and accountability.
Thaxton’s immediate suspension should be seen as an example of the appropriate and long-belated move towards a “no gray-area approach” to assault charges of any kind.
News of Thaxton’s double-felony comes just 48 hours before Jeremy Pruitt is scheduled to speak at his first SEC Media Days in Atlanta. While it’s unlikely he’ll speak much beyond the UTAD’s initial, official statement, it will be interesting to see if he attempts to declare a precedent for dealing with assault as a first-time head coach.
RTI is monitoring the situation and will update with any developments.