Montana State announcer resigns amid harassment claims

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana State University’s play-by-play broadcaster for football and men’s basketball has resigned after the university investigated a reporter’s complaint that he sexually harassed her, an allegation that he denies.

Jay Sanderson told The Billings Gazette that he left his position as “the voice of the Bobcats” last month to help an ill family member in Wichita, Kansas. He denies former Missoulian reporter Amie Just’s allegations that he touched her inappropriately and sent her sexually suggestive text messages.

Just granted permission to use her name to The Associated Press, which normally does not name alleged sexual harassment victims.

Internal university documents provided to the Gazette and the AP show the university’s Office of Institutional Equality investigated Sanderson after Just filed a complaint in September.

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A draft report written at the end of November concluded that Sanderson more likely than not “engaged in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” by sending multiple sexually harassing text messages to Just, making sexually explicit statements and by making unwanted sexual contact.

The schools interim Title IX coordinator, Emily Stark, also issued a “no contact” order in October barring Sanderson and Just from any communication with each other.

A final report is expected this month.

The investigation included interviews with witnesses who said Just appeared shaken at a Big Sky football event in July and told them that Sanderson had touched her inappropriately, according to the report. Just also provided the investigator with suggestive text messages Sanderson sent her in February.

Just, who now covers Louisiana State University sports for the Times-Picayune, said Sanderson created a hostile environment and hurt her ability to do her job, the report said.

Montana State University vice president of communications Tracy Ellig said the university does not comment on individual cases and that the investigatory report is not a public document, though he acknowledged that the document exists.

Sanderson had been in his position since 2014 as a part-time employee of the university and a full-time employee of Learfield Sports. The university has jurisdiction to investigate Sanderson because of his employment and because he was “the public face for MSU Athletics,” the report said.

He resigned at the end of December and said in a tweet that he was moving to Wichita because “members of my family have been befallen by devastating health issues.” He told the Gazette that the allegations are untrue, he considered Just a friend and that the investigation had nothing to do with his resignation.

“Not one bit. I would’ve resigned if there had not been any of this going on,” Sanderson said.

Just reported on the University of Montana’s football team for 1½ seasons.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” she told the Gazette. “I want to move forward with my life. I hope everyone involved can do the same.”

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

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