Coach Rick Butler banned by Junior Volleyball Association

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A lawsuit accusing powerhouse youth volleyball coach Rick Butler of sexually abusing teenage girls in the 1980s made national headlines earlier this year. And publicly, Butler and his wife have had little to say about it. | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

The Wisconsin-based Junior Volleyball Association says it has followed the lead of other organizations and banned successful Chicago-area youth volleyball coach Rick Butler from its ranks.

The news followed Friday’s surprise move by the Amateur Athletic Union — which “permanently disqualified” Butler from participating in its activities — and last month’s expulsion of Butler by USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body.

The Junior Volleyball Association ban is notable because Butler helped form the organization, records show. However, it appears to leave open the door to his eventual return. And it may not be enough to prevent a deepening rift between USA Volleyball and the pair of groups that banned Butler over the weekend.

In an emailed “statement to our members” Sunday, the JVA cited the AAU’s recent move.

“The JVA Board of Directors has determined that JVA will act in accordance with the decision of the AAU and is indefinitely suspending Rick Butler from participation in all JVA-hosted and JVA-insured events,” it said. “This action is effective immediately.”

It’s not yet clear how the ban by the AAU and JVA will affect Butler’s club in Aurora, Sports Performance Volleyball. His attorneys did not respond to messages seeking comment. He has not been a member of the JVA for more than a year, the group’s executive director has said.

Meanwhile, there appears to have been a falling out between USA Volleyball, the AAU and JVA. The Chicago Sun-Times obtained a letter sent early last week by USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis to AAU President Roger Goudy that cited Sun-Times coverage of the Butler controversy and notified the AAU that it would no longer recognize the AAU as an affiliated organization. It declared no tolerance for “any association with coaches, individuals or other organizations who engage in or accept hurtful actions against young people.”

Sunday, USA Volleyball also issued the following statement by Davis regarding the JVA’s decision:

“While we applaud the JVA for ultimately doing the right thing, it is clear from their statement that their values do not match those of USA Volleyball. They have clearly stated that their action is only a result of the recent decision made by the AAU to ban Rick Butler and not a result of their belief that Mr. Butler has done any wrong. Furthermore, unlike USA Volleyball which has revoked Mr. Butler’s membership for life without the possibility of reinstatement, the JVA has suspended him indefinitely which affords him the chance to return to the JVA. USA Volleyball will continue to prioritize the safety of our members.”

All of this comes more than 20 years after USA Volleyball first banned Butler from its ranks. That happened in 1995 after Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Julie Romias and Christine Tuzi alleged he sexually abused them in the 1980s while he was their coach and they were under 18.

Butler says he has “never sexually abused any individual,” but he has conceded he had sex with Powers-Barnhard, Romias and Tuzi. He said that happened after they were no longer minors and no longer on his team.

The coach has never been charged with a crime, though his accusers say the relevant statutes of limitations had expired before they came forward.

USA Volleyball partially rescinded its first ban in 2000. The organization filed a new complaint in December 2016 based, in part, on allegations by another woman, Beth Rose. She alleged that Butler sexually abused her in 1983, when she was 16, while he was sharing an apartment with her mother.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported on those allegations in November in the series “Net Pains.”

The USA Volleyball complaint also noted a fifth alleged sexual abuse victim had “elected to remain silent.” And it identified a woman — who asked that her name not be published — who claimed Butler made inappropriate comments toward her when she was a player on his team. She has declined to comment to the Sun-Times.

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