San Jose State University to pay $560,000 to ex-athletic director in sex abuse case

The man was fired after alerting school officials about student athletes' complaints of sexual abuse by the then-director of sports medicine.|

SAN JOSE — San Jose State University has agreed to pay $560,000 to a former deputy athletic director who was fired in retaliation for alerting school officials about student athletes' complaints of sexual abuse by the then-director of sports medicine, his attorneys said Wednesday.

Steve O'Brien was fired on March 3, 2020, after he took the side of the students and Sage Hopkins, the university's women’s swimming and diving coach, who repeatedly alerted school officials about the abuse complaints against Scott Shaw, San Jose State’s former director of sports medicine.

Shaw resigned in 2020 after allegations resurfaced in news reports accusing him of inappropriately touching swimmers during physical therapy from 2006 to 2009, when the university investigated and cleared Shaw of all wrongdoing. He has denied misconduct, and no criminal charges have been filed against him.

University President Mary Papazian and Athletic Director Marie Tuite resigned last year after it came to light that a new investigation of Shaw wasn’t ordered until late 2019 even though complaints had been reported for years.

As part of the federal investigation, which is ongoing, the university is required to seek out more than 1,000 student-athletes who may have been treated by Shaw.

The federal investigation also found the university had retaliated against O'Brien and Hopkins. Two weeks ago, the university agreed to pay Hopkins $225,000 and promote him to management.

“It’s a reminder of the all-too-common issue of student-athletes being mistreated and the processes that result in the retaliation against those who would stand up on their behalf,” O’Brien told the Mercury News on Wednesday, “and why people don’t come forward sooner and why this kind of abuse can go on for so long.”

Federal investigators identified 23 student-athletes who they said were inappropriately touched by Shaw. Of those, only 13 have accepted $125,000 each in the settlement that was announced on Sept. 21.

Female swimmers said Shaw subjected them to repeated, unwelcome sexual touching during treatment in the campus training facilities, federal prosecutors said.

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