Our Pledge To You

News

USA Volleyball set to hear claims against coach who says he’s been banned

Volleyball coach Rick Butler | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

Volleyball coach Rick Butler | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

Rick Butler says he’s already been banned from USA Volleyball, the national governing body of the sport in which he built a career in the west suburbs.

He also says he’s done participating in USA Volleyball’s disciplinary process.

But USA Volleyball is still expected to hold a three-day, closed-door hearing starting Monday in Colorado to consider new sexual abuse allegations lodged against Butler, the youth volleyball coach who built Sports Performance Volleyball in Aurora.

Butler and his wife, Cheryl, have labeled the hearing a “sham,” a “joke,” and a “witch hunt.” And even though Rick Butler says USA Volleyball banned him on Dec. 11, Cheryl Butler says he had already chosen not to renew his membership when it lapsed last October.

“USA Volleyball has shown once again that facts and the truth do not matter and that they will literally go to any lengths of corruption to push their agenda through,” Cheryl Butler said in an email to the Sun-Times late last week.

A DuPage County judge has said “the public should absolutely be aware” of the allegations against Butler.

It’s still not clear what Butler’s ban means for Sports Performance or its participants. USA Volleyball has made no public comment about it, despite requests from the Sun-Times. The ban appears to be the result of Butler’s alleged violation of a USA Volleyball protective order, not the sexual abuse allegations.

The Sun-Times series about Rick Butler

Part 1: Coach Rick Butler, his players — and the damage done

Part 2: One coach, two very different portraits

Part 3: A tragic chapter in a complicated life

Part 4: ‘It’s shame.’ New abuse allegation against Butler surfaces

USA Volleyball will decide after this week’s hearing whether Butler should also be disciplined based on the substance of those claims.

Butler and his attorneys have said they won’t participate in this week’s hearing. However, a USA Volleyball committee is expected to hear from Beth Rose, the Norridge woman who alleges Butler sexually abused her in 1983. She was 16 at the time, and Butler was sharing an apartment with her mother.

Rose is expected to testify by phone.

Another longtime accuser, Sarah Powers-Barnhard, says she also hopes to testify in person. She said she expects to arrive in Colorado late Monday and will miss the hearing’s first day.

“I’m just going to tell the truth, that’s how I’m approaching it,” Powers-Barnhard said. “The story doesn’t change. It hasn’t in 22 years since I started telling it.”

The hearing could bring back memories of a similar proceeding in 1995, in which Powers-Barnhard testified against Butler along with Julie Romias and Christine Tuzi. All three once played for Butler.

USA Volleyball banned Butler from its ranks that year after the three women alleged he sexually abused them in the 1980s while he was their coach and they were under 18.

That expulsion did not end Butler’s career. USA Volleyball partially rescinded it in 2000. His teams also participate in other youth sports organizations, including the massive Amateur Athletic Union.

But USA Volleyball filed a new complaint against Butler in December 2016, seeking to expel him again based in part on the allegations by Rose.

That 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.

That complaint, which was governed by a protective order, only became public through an unsuccessful lawsuit Butler filed in January 2017. Butler’s alleged violation of that protective order led to the lifetime ban he announced Friday.