USU police chief resigns after 'reprehensible' sexual assault comments to football players

Earl Morris, the chief of police at Utah State University in Logan, has resigned from the job just days after comments he made to the university's football team on sexual assault were made public.

The university announced in a news release Thursday that Morris resigned earlier in the day. The day prior, Morris was placed on administrative leave from the university. USU called Morris' comments to student athletes "reprehensible and unacceptable" in the Thursday release.

Recordings of Morris addressing the USU football team were published earlier in the week, where Morris can be heard telling football players that they live in a "Mormon community" and women may regret having sex after the fact, which could lead to reports of sexual assault.

"Oftentimes it's easier to say, 'No, no, no, that wasn't consensual,'" Morris can be heard saying on the recording.

Utah State University has a long history of issues with how the school has handled sexual assault cases and investigations.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into the school's policies and handling of sexual harassment and assault from 2013-2017, saying the school had not been in compliance with Title IX guidelines.

In 2020, the university announced a settlement with the DOJ, with USU President Noelle Cockett saying in a statement, "The review found that, during this three-year time period there were university-wide failures in addressing sexual misconduct." Part of the settlement included a restructuring of the way the school should handle sexual assault investigations.

Morris' comments were referenced in a lawsuit filed earlier this week in Utah's federal court, on behalf of a former USU student who says the school mishandled her rape case. She reported to the school that she was raped by a football player in 2019, and was later told by a Title IX investigator it would be easiest if she left the school, according to the suit.

Morris joined Utah State as the chief of police and director of public safety in July 2019, according to an email from university spokeswoman Amanda DeRito. With Morris' resignation, the university appointed Kent Harris as the interim police chief and public safety director. Harris, who was previously a captain at the USU police department, has been a part of the department for 12 years, and he has over 30 years of experience in law enforcement.