It’s the match of Rick Butler’s life.
In 1995, Butler, one of the most dominant youth volleyball coaches in the country, survived the kind of scandal now bringing down powerful men on a near-daily basis: claims that he had sexual relationships with underage female players who saw him as their golden ticket to college scholarships and Olympic glory.
That year, the sport’s national governing body, USA Volleyball, banned Butler from its ranks.
But the ban didn’t stick, helping Butler, now 63, go on to coach more than 20,000 teenage girls. The Aurora-based club he built, Sports Performance Volleyball, boasts four Olympic medalists and nearly 100 national championships.
Throughout it all, Butler’s original accusers, all from Chicago’s western suburbs, have refused to remain silent. Now one of them, Sarah Powers-Barnhard, herself a coach, has challenged Butler on the volleyball court — and in a court of law.
Meanwhile, a fourth accuser alleging inappropriate sexual behavior by Butler has come to light amid a five-month long Chicago Sun-Times investigation of his volleyball empire.
And a fifth alleged victim has “elected to remain silent,” according to a year-old USA Volleyball internal complaint against Butler obtained by the Sun-Times. That document, the contents of which have never before been reported, outlines new claims of sexual misconduct and abusive coaching methods by Butler.
All five women’s complaints are relevant now because of multiple efforts to cripple Butler’s coaching career. The USA Volleyball complaint — which again seeks to ban Butler — has come to light because of an unsuccessful lawsuit filed by Butler in an attempt to thwart it. Meanwhile, Powers-Barnhard has filed a separate lawsuit in Florida that aims to have Butler banned from another major sports governing body, the Amateur Athletic Union.
Coach Rick Butler, his players — and the damage done
This is the first in a series of Sun-Times stories that will explore Butler’s complicated history, including a tragedy in his past, the accusations made against him in the 1990s, his ability to survive that controversy, the new threat to his career and legacy, and the passion he inspires in his many defenders.
His fans say Butler has helped thousands of young girls become better athletes and people. Through his attorney, he says he’s never sexually abused anyone.
His accusers tell a different story. They say they still grapple with what Butler did to them decades ago. While no claim has surfaced that Butler sexually abused a player in the last 20 years, advocates for sexual abuse survivors still fear children are at risk.
Powers-Barnhard told the Sun-Times she had just turned 16 and was on a road trip with Butler and her teammates when he first kissed her.
“He said come here, and I went into the middle of the gym and he’s holding a volleyball . . . and he goes ‘Jesus F—ing Christ,’ and he threw the ball as hard as he could against the wall,” she recalled. “So I went upstairs scared to death and he’s sitting there and he said to me, ‘You have to know you have to follow me blindly, if you have goals and you want to be great.’
“And of course, what am I going to say? Yes, I said ‘OK,’ and then he leaned over and kissed me. I mean, I was 16, I was a dork. I mean, I was a virgin. I hadn’t had a boyfriend.”
The kiss evolved into a pattern of sexual abuse, including intercourse, that went on for two years, she said.
Butler in the past has conceded to having sex with Powers-Barnhard and two other accusers — but only after each had turned 18, consented and had left his program.
Another woman steps forward
Central to the renewed effort by USA Volleyball to oust Butler is a Norridge woman named Beth Rose. Rose, 51, never played volleyball, but she alleges Butler sexually abused her in 1983 when he shared an apartment with her mother.
In 2000, USA Volleyball partially rescinded its 1995 lifetime ban against Butler, enabling his coaching business to thrive. But Rose’s claims have sparked the organization to again seek to ban Butler for life, according to the pending internal USA Volleyball complaint filed on Dec. 20, 2016.
Butler filed his unsuccessful lawsuit against USA Volleyball in DuPage County Circuit Court in January. The document that identified Rose and her claims became public through his lawsuit.
Butler’s teams also participate in other sports groups, including the Amateur Athletic Union, so expulsion by USA Volleyball wouldn’t necessarily end his coaching career. But it could cause AAU and other organizations to re-think his standing — especially in light of the string of powerful men accused of sexual harassment and misconduct nationwide.
Butler’s former player, Powers-Barnhard, sued the AAU in 2016 for turning a blind eye to Butler’s past. Butler called that lawsuit “false and maliciously motivated.” Butler also said in a statement released by his attorney, Terry Ekl, that he has “never sexually abused any individual.”
As that lawsuit proceeds, more than 3,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the AAU to also toss Butler. When Sun-Times reporters contacted the AAU, it asked for questions in writing — then refused to answer them.
AAU hosts part of its annual volleyball championship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, according to its website. Disney officials did not return phone messages about the AAU and Butler.
Butler cites smear campaign
Butler has never been charged with a crime. He claims this is all part of “an orchestrated campaign” by Powers-Barnhard and a former business partner — Rose’s mother — to smear his reputation. Though Butler says he has “absolutely no desire to be a member of USA Volleyball given the egregious conduct displayed by the organization,” he said he plans to fight for his reputation.
Butler noted in his statement that while USA Volleyball’s complaint has been amended four times, USA Volleyball has “yet to give me the opportunity to defend myself,” and denied requests “for basic due process rights.”
His wife, Cheryl Butler, emailed the Sun-Times to defend her husband.
“These people thought they were going to destroy us and our success on and off the court in the volleyball world,” Cheryl Butler wrote, “and instead they have spent so much time trying to take us down that they have ruined their own business relationships, personal relationships and have little to nothing at the end of the day.”
USA Volleyball attorney Steve Smith declined to comment on the effort to oust Butler, but he said, “USA Volleyball absolutely provides fair process to those who are accused of violating our rules.”
Butler comes from humble beginnings and is a self-made success story in the world of youth sports. He lives in Aurora but also has a home on nearly 250 acres worth more than $1 million in Crook County, Oregon, records show. He came to Illinois in 1979.
Now he has established himself as one of the most influential youth coaches in the country. He coached in the 1984 Olympics and has bragged that he helped write USA Volleyball’s code of ethics on a fishing trip in 1988.
He is a self-described “hard-ass.” Former players have complained they weren’t allowed to wear nail polish or attend prom. They say he once pushed a player so hard during a practice drill that she wet her pants.
His team reportedly once gave him a t-shirt that simply read, “GOD.”
The lure of scholarships
One of his main accusers, Powers-Barnhard, went on to play at the collegiate and professional levels. Today, she is a club coach in Florida.
Earlier this year, her team played Butler’s in the AAU championship tournament. Though she said it was difficult to face Butler, she said her spirits were lifted when several parents and players wore shirts that read “I stand with them” — referring to Powers-Barnhard and Butler’s other accusers — and “ask me why.”
A Florida state senator who once sat on an advisory board of AAU, Lauren Book, said she believes Butler has been protected by a culture that values “money, power and winning.” She also said, “coaches have a very special place in the lives of kids.”
Book, herself a sexual abuse survivor, said parents also tend to think their children won’t become victims. She said they are lured into risky scenarios by the promise of scholarships.
“It should be that everyone in the community is sitting and screaming about what is happening,” Book said. “Parents need to be boycotting the AAU.”
Instead of being on a volleyball court, “Rick Butler should be in a court of law,” she said.
Part 2: One coach, two very different portraits
They all wanted to be Olympians.
And when they were teenage girls in the 1980s, they all said they heard a version of the following speech from youth volleyball coach Rick Butler:
“You’re not like everybody else. You need to understand. You need to be pushed harder than everybody else. You have to listen to me. You have to follow me blindly, and you just have to do what I tell you to do.”
Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Christine Tuzi and Julie Romias have maintained for decades that Butler’s speech was a mere prelude to sexual abuse — the grooming of young, ambitious teenagers with stars in their eyes. And while Butler has denied the allegations and continued his successful coaching career, the women say they still struggle with what happened to them.
“It used to make me feel dirty and unclean and unworthy,” Romias said. “And, you know, who would want me as a friend? Much less a wife? It’s like a cancer invading — with tentacles — invading every area of your life.”
Butler has never been charged with a crime. He has admitted having a sexual relationship with each of the three accusers but claims it was after they played for him and were no longer minors. “I have never sexually abused any individual,” he said in a statement released by his attorney, Terry Ekl.
The accusers made their allegations in sworn affidavits and in testimony before USA Volleyball’s Ethics and Eligibility Committee. The committee took their side in 1995, finding that Butler “had unprotected sexual intercourse and a subsequent physical and emotional relationship” with each of the girls before each turned 18.
The committee banned Butler “for life” — but it let him successfully reapply for membership in 2000 on the condition that he not coach girls who are in high school or younger in USA Volleyball-sanctioned events. Butler has gotten around that by having his girls’ teams instead participate in tournaments sponsored by other sports organizations, including the massive Amateur Athletic Union.
In the 1990s, and in a series of interviews this year with the Sun-Times, the women alleged a similar predatory pattern. They said Butler ostracized them from the rest of the team and promised them athletic glory, but he demanded total devotion to himself and the sport.
Soon, they said, the abuse would start. At the time, Butler, now 63, was in his mid- to late-20s or early 30s. The three women were then 16 or 17.
It allegedly began for Powers-Barnhard during a trip to Syracuse, New York, in 1981. She said she didn’t follow Butler’s precise instructions when the team stopped to practice at Western Michigan University. So Butler forced her to travel the remaining 600 miles in an equipment van — separated from the other players.
When they arrived in New York, she said he apologized, told her she “needed to obey his coaching to be the best” — and kissed her. She said the sexual abuse began later, in August 1981, when she was 16. Afterward, she said, Butler “would engage in some form of a sex act with me whenever and wherever he wanted.”
She said it lasted about two years.
‘I felt so disgusted’
Tuzi said her abuse began in 1984, when she was 16. Butler offered to help her write a school paper. She accepted and, after working on the paper for a while at his home one night, they went out for pizza.
That’s when she said Butler professed his “overpowering feelings” for her, and offered to help her become “a real star.” When they returned to his home, Tuzi said Butler backed her up against a wall and eventually had sex with her. She said the abuse continued for more than four years. She said she wound up getting pregnant and having an abortion.
Tuzi also said Butler wrote her several love letters — and she still has them.
“Either you believe me, or you think I’d be willing to make a public fool out of myself,” Tuzi wrote in a letter to USA Volleyball in 1995.
Romias said Butler first initiated sexual contact during a team trip to Japan in 1987 when she was 17. She said he called her to his room, where she found him lying on a mat with a bathrobe on. She said he asked her to sit down beside her and, after she did so, he began to kiss and fondle her.
“I remember when he kissed me, I felt so disgusted,” Romias said. “This is an old man.”
She said they first had sex later, in April 1987. She said he forced himself on her as she insisted she didn’t believe in sex before marriage. She said the abuse lasted a year and a half.
Multiple universities recruited Powers-Barnhard and Tuzi. But they said Butler pressured them to attend Western Michigan University, where Butler was working as an assistant coach during a brief hiatus from Sports Performance Volleyball.
Today Powers-Barnhard, 52, is a club volleyball coach in Florida and a member of USA Volleyball. Tuzi, 50, works in real estate. And Romias, 48, is a family medicine doctor in California.
These allegations all came to light in 1994 after Romias visited a therapist’s office in California who insisted on calling child welfare officials.
Butler repeatedly, but carefully, denied the allegations. During a July 1995 hearing of USA Volleyball’s ethics committee, his attorney asked him, “do you deny sexual intercourse or other sexual contact with all players on your team?”
Butler said, “Yes.” He confirmed that his denial stood regardless of whether the players were 18, and he acknowledged his answer applied to his entire coaching career.
Later in the hearing, the chairwoman of the ethics committee, Rebecca Howard, pushed back. And Butler gave a different answer, according to the official transcript of the hearing.
Howard: “Can you tell me, have you ever had sexual relationships with Christine (Tuzi)?”
Howard: “Have you ever had sexual relationship —”
Butler: “As a player.”
Howard: “No, that’s not my question. That’s why I am asking —”
Butler: “Yes, I have had sexual relations with Christine (Tuzi).”
Howard: “Have you had with Sarah (Powers-Barnhard)?”
Howard: “And have you had sexual relations with . . . Julie (Romias)?”
The scrutiny of sports organizations
Critics of Butler say he’s thrived because of an emphasis on money, power and winning in youth sports. Butler may have also benefitted from a lack of preparation by athletic officials to deal with such a scandal. What’s more, the controversy predated the internet’s ability to spread allegations like wildfire.
Marci Hamilton, the CEO of child abuse think tank CHILD USA, also noted that when it comes to sexual assault, “it’s always someone else’s job” to stop the predator.
When USA Volleyball first investigated claims of sexual abuse by Butler, Butler’s defense often turned on technical questions of due process. For example, his attorney repeatedly asked USA Volleyball to explain what policy Butler allegedly violated.
A Cook County judge later noted there was nothing in USA Volleyball’s bylaws that specifically prohibited Butler’s alleged behavior.
Today, USA Volleyball participates in the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which explicitly outlaws such behavior. Even Butler’s admission that he had sexual relationships with his accusers after they left his program may have been a violation of the rules today.
However, Butler is also a member of the Amateur Athletic Union, which has a national policy to deny participation “to any individual for whom there is reasonable cause to believe that they have engaged in sexual misconduct.”
The AAU declined to answer questions submitted by the Sun-Times for this series. It even declined to say whether it tolerates sexual relationships between coaches and players.
After being reinstated by USA Volleyball in 2000, Butler went on to help form the Junior Volleyball Association, or the JVA. The group has since partnered with the AAU.
Jenny Hahn, the JVA’s executive director, was also among the JVA’s original leaders. She did not recall any concerns at the time of the group’s formation about the role of Butler or the sexual abuse allegations in his past. The way she saw it, it had already been dealt with by USA Volleyball.
“It was not a topic of conversation when we met to form the JVA,” Hahn said.
Butler hasn’t just won titles and produced top-notch talent in the 22 years since the sexual-abuse allegations against him first surfaced. He’s built enough trust that parents have sent their kids to live with him.
‘Nothing but honest’
Two parents, Peter Van Dyke and Julie Dailey, told the Sun-Times this month about their experiences with Butler and his wife, Cheryl. Both sent their daughters to live with the Butlers for a significant amount of time.
Van Dyke was fully aware of the sexual assault allegations against Butler when he sent his daughter Marijke to train with Butler at Sports Performance.
Van Dyke says his family “investigated them, discussed them and made the decision to join [Sports Performance]. That decision was made with some angst and concern and we were on guard for any hint of inappropriate behavior.”
Van Dyke lives in Munster, Indiana. He was so convinced that Butler was the right man to coach his daughter that he drove 75 minutes in each direction to take her to practice.
“What we experienced over the last three years was nothing short of a transformative experience,” Van Dyke said. “Rick has been nothing but honest and a man of his word in all our interactions with him. He acted with integrity and character.”
The Van Dykes allowed Marijke to graduate early last December and move in with the Butlers for six months to train full-time.
“This was offered by the Butlers, not requested of them,” Van Dyke said. “Rick and Cheryl truly adopted our daughter, and we now joke that our daughter has two sets of parents.”
Marijke Van Dyke isn’t the only teenage girl to live with Butler recently.
Julie Dailey’s daughter lived with the Butlers for three months.
“I asked them if my oldest daughter could live with them and train,” Julie Dailey said. “Rick and Cheryl were completely and fully honest with me about any accusations.”
Marijke is now playing volleyball at the University of Illinois. She’s one of hundreds of success stories. The Sports Performance website lists more than 300 alumni that have gone on to play college volleyball since 2008.
Butler’s success isn’t just raw numbers. He’s producing some of the best players in the nation. Lauren Carlini, from Aurora, and Kelly Murphy, from Wilmington, both play on the U.S. National team.
Carlini was the national player of the year her senior year at West Aurora and was the 2017 AAU James E. Sullivan Award winner, given to the best amateur athlete in any sport in the country.
Carlini’s parents, Tony and Gale, support Butler.
“Our daughter would not be the player she is today without the training, coaching, life experiences, and knowledge given to her by Sports Performance,” the Carlinis said in a statement. “The program developed many leadership styles, skills, mental toughness, enjoyment, discipline, of and for the game.”
The Haggerty family recently had three girls play for Butler. Meghan, Molly and Maddie all went on to play in college.
“Our daughters each had an outstanding experience playing for and being trained by Rick Butler,” Jerry and Stacey Haggerty said in a statement. “We found Rick to be honest, caring, and completely professional at all times.”
Butler is also supported by several high school coaches. Batavia High School girls volleyball coach Lori Trippi-Payne has seen more than 30 of her players go through Sports Performance. She hasn’t been convinced by the allegations against Butler.
“I just don’t see it,” Trippi-Payne said. “I had players there in the ’90s and not one ever said one negative thing. Not one. No one ever came to me and said something was going on and I think they would have, I’m close with my girls.”
Roger Strausberger, the dean of students and boys volleyball coach at Naperville Central, coached at Sports Performance for nine years. He says his daughter plays for Sports Performance’s Under-13 team, and he hopes she has the chance to be coached by the Butlers before they retire.
Strausberger even saves seats for the Butlers at games, just in case they show up.
“I continue to honor Rick, Cheryl and my time at Sports Performance by leaving two seats at the front of my bench for them to sit in if they happen to be in the gym,” Strausberger said.
Part 3: Amid sex scandal, police probed death of Butler’s son
Rick Butler built his volleyball empire in Illinois.
But he never really left Oregon behind.
Butler grew up in a small town in western Oregon, where his parents owned a service station. Today, he owns a large, secluded home on nearly 250 acres of property in Crook County about 200 miles east of his hometown, records show. The property is worth $1.25 million, county officials estimate, and Butler often shares majestic views of the surrounding wilderness on Facebook.
A tragic turn in a complicated life
But back in 1995 — in the midst of the sexual abuse scandal that nearly ended his career — something else drew Butler’s attention back to the town of Eugene, Oregon. He went to the town’s police department in May of that year seeking information about the January 1975 death of his 2-year-old son, Christopher Alan Butler, police and court records show.
The boy’s death had been ruled an accidental drowning in a bathtub, but that changed after Rick Butler’s visit.
While Butler was fending off USA Volleyball’s expulsion efforts here, authorities out west began re-investigating the 20-year-old death of Butler’s boy.
That new investigation led to murder charges against the boy’s stepfather, Stephen Hinkle, in April 1996.
Butler met the boy’s mother, Jaylene Hamlin, through his sister in the summer of 1970, when he was still in high school. Hamlin became pregnant with Christopher, and the teenagers got married in February 1972 in Reno, Nevada. She moved to Butler’s hometown of Yoncalla, and they lived with Butler’s parents while he finished high school, police records show.
The marriage began to fall apart by the end of 1972. They divorced in 1973 but “stayed on friendly terms,” according to a police report. Butler went on to study at Oregon’s Institute of Technology and then the College of the Siskiyous in northern California. He would also attend the University of Redlands in southern California, where he played football.
Meanwhile, Hamlin kept custody of Christopher and married Hinkle, records show.
Christopher died Jan. 7, 1975, while his mother was at night school. His stepfather later told authorities he had been giving the boy a bath and had “just checked him” when he left the bathroom. When he returned, the boy “was under the water,” records show. A pathologist determined the child had drowned, despite various bruises and other marks on his body.
Butler was living in a cabin outside Weed, Calif., when police came to tell him about the boy’s death, records show.
Move to Illinois — and a career change
Butler would move to Illinois in 1979. Here, he met Bob Gajda, the strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team. Butler started working with the team, and eventually he became a strength coach as well. He worked with the first U.S. team to win an Olympic gold medal in volleyball, records show.
He also met a young woman, Dawn Reig, who now lives in West Dundee and said in a phone interview that she introduced Butler to the game of volleyball.
Reig acknowledged she dated Butler for about a year and a half after she turned 18. She also said that, though Butler trained her, he was never her coach.
“He was good to me,” Reig said. “He never treated me poorly. We broke up, it was done. It was over.”
Butler opened Sports Performance Volleyball Club with Kay Rogness in 1981. In its first year, the program was coached by Jerry Angle, who was also the head women’s volleyball coach at Northwestern University at the time. Butler took over in 1982.
Sports Performance Volleyball would go on to win 28 national championships and help land its players more than $10 million in scholarships in the 13 years that followed.
Along the way, Butler coached Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Christine Tuzi and Julie Romias. He also met his future wife, Cheryl, who is now one of Sports Performance Volleyball’s owners and one of Butler’s most passionate defenders. They married in 1995.
Meanwhile, Butler’s family harbored “a strong suspicion” that his son had met with foul play back in Oregon, according to police records.
Hinkle wound up pleading guilty to manslaughter after prosecutors accused him of killing Christopher Butler, records show.
Part 4: Rick Butler faces new accuser, new fight
Beth Rose says she last spoke to Rick Butler in the middle of the night, on the phone.
She said she called him in the mid-1990s from a bar, when the career of the dominant youth volleyball coach seemed to be falling apart. Rose never played volleyball, but she lived with Butler in her mother’s apartment in Carol Stream when she was a teenager a decade earlier.
When she learned Butler had been accused of sexual abuse by three former players, she decided she had something to say to him.
New abuse allegations against Coach Butler surfaces
“I said, if he ever touches another girl, I’ll totally come forward,” Rose said.
Now Rose, who lives in Norridge, has become the first alleged victim of sexual abuse by Butler to come forward in decades. She joined his original three accusers in granting interviews — two of them on camera — to the Chicago Sun-Times this year.
Rose’s allegations date back to 1983 and don’t specifically relate to Butler’s coaching career, but they might ultimately lead to his expulsion from USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body.
Butler “adamantly” denies Rose’s account of their relationship, according to a statement from his attorney.
Rose’s name appears in a Dec. 20, 2016, complaint by USA Volleyball that aims to expel Butler from its ranks. She said she also has filed an affidavit in the case. She gave the Sun-Times permission to identify her and explained that sexual-abuse survival is a struggle “I don’t know that men understand.”
“We never get rid of it,” Rose said. “It’s in there, and it makes you feel dirty all the time . . . It’s shame.”
The USA Volleyball legal filing that names Rose also identifies a woman who alleges Butler made inappropriate comments toward her and used over-the-top coaching methods.
That woman declined to be interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times and asked that her name not be published. The USA Volleyball document also references a fifth alleged sexual abuse victim who “elected to remain silent.”
“Mr. Butler’s sexual relationships with minor girls clearly does not conform to normally accepted behavior, likely violated applicable criminal laws, and constituted physical or verbal abuse in violation of the USAV Participant Code of Conduct in effect at the time,” USA Volleyball lawyer Steven Smith wrote in the document.
Butler, 63, has never been criminally charged. Through his attorney, Terry Ekl, Butler issued a statement, saying he has “never sexually abused any individual.” Butler said he has passed five polygraph tests in which he denied Rose’s claims and others.
The document that named Rose only publicly surfaced because of Butler’s unsuccessful lawsuit against USA Volleyball that sought to stop the new expulsion efforts. In his statement, Butler said the document had been amended by USA Volleyball four times.
Rose, 51, is the daughter of Butler’s former business partner, Kay Rogness, whom Butler has long blamed for allegations that have dogged him.
Rogness said she learned of her daughter’s alleged abuse three years after it happened. Though it “horrified” her, she said it wasn’t her sole motivation for pursuing Butler. And even if it was, it shouldn’t matter.
“This is about what Rick Butler did to the young ladies that he was coaching when they were underage,” Rogness said.
Unlike most people in this saga, Rose saw volleyball as “just a game” even though she lived with her mother and Butler, whose lives were consumed by the sport. She said Butler called her “cottage cheese legs,” and she avoided him as much as possible.
Claims of drunken, underage sex
One night, when she was 16 and Butler was in his late 20s, Rose said she came home from a party upset about “typical teenage drama.”She said Butler offered her a drink, and she consumed “half a bottle of vodka.”
“I was so drunk I literally had to put my feet on top of his feet in order to walk,” Rose said.
Butler had sex with her that night in his bedroom, Rose alleges. She said she woke up the next morning “shell shocked.” They crossed paths in the kitchen the next morning. She said she was “literally shaking” and spilled a glass of milk, but she said “he didn’t say a word; he just left.”
Butler finally brought it up to her later, but she said she wound up getting drunk and having sex with him again. Then, she said, “I moved out.”
Rose said she didn’t speak with Butler again until that phone call she placed in the 1990s. She said she called him from a bar at about 2 a.m. after looking up his number through 411.
“I just said, ‘This is Beth,’ and he was just very silent,” Rose said. “And I’m like, ‘you know who this is right?’ And he said, ‘yes.’”
Rose said she was “shocked that he didn’t hang up.”
Butler was silent, she said. And, in the end, she hung up first.
Rogness, Rose’s mother, parted ways with Butler decades ago. But they’re not finished with each other.
Within the last year, Butler has accused Rogness of an “orchestrated campaign” to smear his reputation. And Rogness has said, “it’s more accurate to say that Rick Butler is engaged in an orchestrated campaign to deflect the attention from what he did to anyone or anything else.”
Butler started Sports Performance Volleyball, now based in Aurora, with Rogness in 1981, records show. She ran the program for a year in 1985 when Butler left to take assistant coaching jobs at Western Michigan University and the University of Southern California.
Rogness left the club in 1988, after Butler’s return, to attend law school in Colorado, according to a lawsuit filed by Butler in the 1990s. Butler offered to buy her share of the business, and they spent a year negotiating terms. Amid the negotiations, Rogness sent Butler an August 1989 letter threatening to “dismantle” the club, Butler claims.
“When all the dust settles and the ashes are cleared away, we’ll see who lost the most,” Rogness wrote, according to Butler’s lawsuit.
Butler declines to discuss accusations
Rick Butler declined to be interviewed for this series. But in 1995, he uttered words that he’s probably still saying today, noting that he “lost 14 years of dignity” and was being unfairly targeted because of his success.
“I still have to wake up every day to the fact that I am going through something that doesn’t even resemble justice, and I am being judged on 1995 standards for allegations from 1981, 1984 and 1987,” Butler said at a hearing before USA Volleyball.
USA Volleyball banned Butler from its organization “for life” after that hearing. In 2000, it let him back in.
By doing so, Butler said it “remedied the injustice.”
But to Rose and Butler’s other accusers, justice has not been served — hence their efforts to speak publicly about what happened to them in hopes that USA Volleyball and other sports organizations will ban him from coaching.
“Even if Rick gets in trouble finally and pays the price, I’m waking up tomorrow the same person. It’s not a relief. It doesn’t make it right,” said Christine Tuzi, a former player for Butler who claims he sexually abused her. “I’m still going to have my days where my husband can’t touch me because I feel dirty. None of that goes away. That stays.
“I’m 50. I stand in front of the mirror sometimes and I have to say, ‘It’s not my fault’ — I am 50. That sucks.”
Coach Rick Butler’s written response to the sexual abuse allegations
The following is the full statement issued by Rick Butler through his attorney concerning the allegations against Butler. The name of one of the women referred to in the document has been redacted since she did not agree to be named publicly.
Timeline of events
Key events and dates in the story of suburban youth volleyball coach Rick Butler:
1981:Sarah Powers-Barnhard alleges she is sexually abused by Butler when she is 16. She says the abuse lasted for two years.
1983:Beth Rose alleges she is sexually abused by Butler when she is 16. She claims two encounters with him.
1984:Christine Tuzi alleges she is sexually abused by Butler when she is 16. She says it lasted for more than four years.
1987:Julie Romias alleges she is sexually abused by Butler when she is 17. She says the abuse lasted for a year and a half.
1995:USA Volleyball expels Butler “for life.” Butler acknowledges having sexual relations with the Powers-Barnhard, Tuzi and Romias— butafterthey played for him and were 18 or older.
2000:Butler is reinstated to USA Volleyball through a local chapter, on the condition that he not coach junior girls in USA Volleyball-sanctioned events. He continues to coach girls in Amateur Athletic Union events.
June 23, 2016:Butler’s former player, Sarah Powers-Barnhard, sues the Amateur Athletic Union for turning a blind eye to Butler’s past. That case is pending.
Dec. 20, 2016:USA Volleyball files another internal complaint against Butler and seeks a hearing during which it says it would ask that Butler be banned for life.
Jan. 9, 2017:Butler sues USA Volleyball in DuPage County Circuit Court to stop its expulsion efforts. He ultimately is unsuccessful. The expulsion matter is pending.