Sports

Why did Bru McCoy leave USC? Court filings offer some answers

By last summer, two years of turmoil appeared to be behind Bru McCoy. After a winding transfer saga saw him bounce between USC and Texas followed by a mysterious illness that left him fearing for his life, it seemed the former five-star Mater Dei receiver was finally poised to realize his potential with the Trojans.

But any hope of that promise being fulfilled at USC evaporated days before the team broke fall camp ahead of the 2021 season. McCoy was arrested July 24 following an alleged incident with his ex-girlfriend at his off-campus residence that prompted her to seek medical attention. McCoy was suspended from USC’s campus and removed from the football team. He would never suit up for the Trojans again.

McCoy denied the allegations, and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to file charges last August, citing insufficient evidence in a case it referred to as “he said, she said domestic violence.”

Still, USC continued with its Title IX investigation into McCoy, keeping him off the football team long after the district attorney’s decision was handed down. His accuser, referred to in court filings as Jane Roe to protect her identity, forged on with her pursuit of a restraining order against McCoy. McCoy, in response, sought to clear his name and return to the field.

USC receiver Bru McCoy runs with the ball during the Pac-12 championship game in 2020.

(AP)

A clean resolution never came to pass. By the time USC finally lifted its suspension, McCoy had already entered the transfer portal. Last week, he made his exit official, committing to Tennessee, where a new fanbase is already buzzing about his potential.

But at USC, where McCoy once seemed bound for stardom, he leaves numerous questions in his wake.

The Times reviewed hundreds of pages of court filings in search of answers. Those documents, filed mostly amid his fervent efforts to return to USC and its football team, shed light on the disciplinary process at USC and what can happen when a star football player faces serious accusations.

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After a night out in West Hollywood with his sister, McCoy and Chris Steele, a fellow USC football player, arrived back at the off-campus residence they shared with four other football players after 3 a.m. on July 24, 2021.

McCoy’s ex-girlfriend, according to his testimony, was waiting for him inside the residence when he returned.

The two met three years earlier and dated while McCoy was a student at Mater Dei. That relationship, described by several sources in court filings as “on-again, off-again,” had since turned tumultuous.

Several text message exchanges filed by McCoy’s attorneys with the court include threats of violence from the woman toward McCoy or other women in contact with him. When McCoy attempted to block his ex-girlfriend’s number, his attorneys say, she continued to call and text from dozens of different burner numbers using various apps.

USC Department of Public Safety officers had already twice responded to calls within a single week stemming from arguments between McCoy and the woman in January 2020.

The first of those DPS reports, from Jan. 12, lists McCoy as the reporting party for a misdemeanor vandalism incident that resulted in damage to USC property. The other, which was reported by a neighbor, lists him as the victim of a domestic incident. The former incident, along with a fight involving McCoy at a fraternity party, would later be cited by USC as evidence of McCoy’s escalating violence that justified his suspension.

Police, however, were not called to respond July 24. It wasn’t until 5:30 p.m., later that day, after McCoy’s ex-girlfriend sought treatment at United Urgent Care in Carson, that LAPD officers arrived at McCoy’s residence to arrest him on suspicion of domestic violence. He was released six hours later on a $50,000 bond.

Many of the details after McCoy returned home from West Hollywood that night are still in dispute. In her August application for a temporary restraining order against McCoy, which was obtained by The Times, his ex-girlfriend wrote that McCoy “kicked and punched me multiple times in the ribs, strangled my neck then head butted me in the nose fracturing it, spit in my face repeatedly, pinned me down and used my arms to force me to hit myself in the face and head.”

The assault, she said, resulted in a broken nose, muscle spasms, concussion without consciousness, pleurodynia, a right arm contusion, chronic pansinusitis, head trauma, rib pain and a contusion of the back wall of her thorax, as well as bruises and scratches.

She later confirmed to USC officials, as part of their risk assessment, that she suffered the injuries, which required surgery, during an altercation with McCoy.

He has denied her allegations. McCoy’s attorneys sought to cast doubt on her credibility, describing her in a November court filing as “a threatening, unpredictable, and violent individual who does not respect Mr. McCoy’s wishes or boundaries.”

In an August email to USC, Mark Hathaway, one of McCoy’s attorneys, questioned whether she’d been injured at all, pointing to a “lack of evidence of actual bodily injury.”

They claim that in a fit of jealous rage, she assaulted McCoy. Pictures of McCoy taken by a private investigator the following day show him with multiple scratches, bruises and bite marks.

Court filings offer a limited scope of her version of events. Alison Saros, the woman’s attorney, declined comment when reached by The Times.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff expressed some concern in a September ruling about “multiple levels of hearsay evidence” regarding her injuries. But ultimately, Beckloff wrote the evidence did show McCoy’s ex-girlfriend sought medical care and the LAPD became involved in the case.

Upon returning home July 24, McCoy says he encountered his ex-girlfriend, who was enraged by an Instagram photo of him alongside a woman she didn’t know. In a brief responding to her restraining order, McCoy’s attorneys claim she punched him three times in the face, then stole his phone and sent a text message at 3:13 a.m. to a female USC athlete, with whom McCoy was friends, demanding she stop calling McCoy.

She remained in the room into the morning after McCoy said he went to sleep. When he awoke, his attorneys say, she threw a fan at McCoy, which hit him in the back of the head. They claim she then “grabbed his testicles, made contact with his neck, and choked him” in an effort to retrieve his phone again, before proceeding to ransack his room.

McCoy submitted several brief videos from that night as part of his quest for injunctive relief from the court. But none, according to the superior court judge who denied his stay, appears to confirm his version of events.

Attorneys for USC deemed the videos “disturbing” and “out of context,” adding that they “most certainly do not, as McCoy claims, disprove [the woman’s …] allegations.”

She eventually left the house late that morning. Soon after, she sought medical treatment at United Urgent Care, where medical professionals alerted the LAPD.

By 5:30 p.m., officers arrived to arrest McCoy. According to an emergency removal assessment days later, LAPD then informed DPS that McCoy had been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon “because of the headbutt.” The LAPD officer told USC DPS at the time that the woman alleged McCoy “kicked her in the ribs, straddled her, and headbutted her resulting in a broken nose.”

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The following Monday, USC’s Initial Assessment Triage Team (IATT) met to determine whether Bru McCoy represented a threat to the larger campus community.

IATT, which was created less than a year earlier in response to new Title IX regulations, is comprised of USC officials in several departments, including Title IX, DPS and student affairs. Its mission, according to USC, is to provide “effective, timely, caring and coordinated initial assessment in response to all reports of protected class discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”

The Times reviewed a copy of McCoy’s emergency removal assessment, which includes 19 various factors considered by IATT.

USC did not initially speak with the woman as part of that assessment, instead waiting until later that week to contact her. McCoy’s risk assessment, in turn, references only a report from DPS, as well as two previous disciplinary cases at USC involving McCoy.

USC receiver Bru McCoy runs during a game.

USC receiver Bru McCoy runs during a game against Utah on Nov. 22, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

The past cases played a major role in determining his fate at USC. According to IATT’s assessment, they indicated “a history of reported violent behavior for which [McCoy] was sanctioned.”

The first traces back to a party at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity in October 2019. According to a DPS report, from Oct. 19, McCoy trespassed by climbing a fence into the fraternity’s backyard. McCoy later told USC that a friend working the door told him to enter the property from the rear of the building. But another fraternity member, who is also a USC athlete, chased McCoy upon entering the property. A physical altercation ensued and punches were thrown, according to DPS, which was called to the scene.

The fraternity member did not want to press charges or file a police report. He told DPS he didn’t remember who started the altercation. But USC later found McCoy responsible for five violations of the student code of conduct.

Less than three months later, DPS responded to a call from McCoy at his apartment on Orchard Avenue, the first of two incidents within a week’s time that involved his ex-girlfriend.

According to the DPS incident report, she arrived at McCoy’s residence Jan. 12 around 9 p.m. to return his belongings. Upon meeting McCoy and five of his teammates in the apartment’s stairwell, McCoy says she instead attempted to set fire to his belongings.

When McCoy left the stairwell, she punched a window, causing damage to university property, the DPS report said. McCoy and his teammates proceeded to the second floor, where he taunted her by “exposing his genitals and buttocks” from the second floor window, according to the DPS report. She responded by throwing a metal watch at the window, causing further damage, the DPS report said.

At some point, she ransacked McCoy’s room, according to the DPS report. He was later cited for throwing what he called two small Ziploc bags filled with water at her.

Nearly a year later, a USC office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards (SJACS) hearing officer determined McCoy committed six conduct violations. He previously was sanctioned for five violations during the fraternity incident. McCoy, who accepted responsibility and did not appeal, was given a deferred suspension and asked to write a paper reflecting on his added responsibility as a USC athlete.

A week after the confrontation with his ex-girlfriend, DPS was called again to McCoy’s apartment. This time, McCoy was listed as the victim in a domestic dispute involving the woman, who was listed as a witness.

When officers arrived at Orchard Avenue around 4:25 a.m. on Jan. 19, they heard items being thrown inside. They handcuffed both McCoy and the woman. The apartment, according to the report, was torn apart, with food, clothing and household items strewn about.

The woman attributed their contentious argument to “relationship issues,” the report said. She told three DPS officers no physical contact had been made between her and McCoy and she didn’t fear for her safety. Officers also note in their report that neither showed any signs of injury.

But when she filed a restraining order request in August 2021, she listed Jan. 19 as a second date during which she was a victim of McCoy’s abuse. She wrote that McCoy “strangled my neck, threw glass on the floor that I stepped on, punched, kicked and slammed me into the floor [and] dunked my head in the toilet.”

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Four days after his arrest and nine days before USC opened its fall football camp, McCoy received an email from Catherine Spear, vice president of USC’s office for Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX. The July 28 email notes his arrest, “a history of prior reports of violent behavior” and “a potential pattern of conduct” in ruling that an emergency removal order should be put into place to protect the campus community from McCoy.

“Effective immediately,” the email read, “you are barred from the University. This Emergency Removal prohibits you from participating in any University program or activity or being present on University campus or in any University facility.”

McCoy quickly appealed. But a week later, Winston Crisp, USC’s vice president of student affairs, reiterated many of the points Spear made and denied the appeal.

The next day, USC opened camp with few answers about whether its talented receiver would ever return.

That door seemed to crack open Aug. 25 when the district attorney’s office declined to file charges against McCoy, citing a lack of evidence. But USC continued to investigate a Title IX complaint filed against McCoy in August.

McCoy spent the next six months fighting to return to the football team.

“I am struggling with frustration and the sense that my dream school, USC, has abandoned me,” McCoy wrote in a declaration to the court.

Twice last September, McCoy’s attorneys filed for injunctive relief with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, asking for a judge to stay USC’s emergency removal. But the court denied McCoy’s requests. In his ruling Sept. 7, Beckloff wrote that there is “no question … USC complied with its own rules and processes” and that a stay of the university’s decision “would be against the public interest.”

Having exhausted his options with the lower court, McCoy moved onto the 2nd District Court of Appeal, where, on Oct. 29, he was also denied.

In the midst of that barrage of legal filings, USC modified its removal order against McCoy on Sept. 10, allowing for him to attend in-person classes on campus. However, he was still barred from rejoining the football team or attending any other university activities.

So McCoy continued his legal battle against USC, claiming in a court filing the university’s modified order was “a clear acknowledgment” he didn’t pose a risk to the campus. The modified suspension, his attorneys argued, served only to keep McCoy from playing football. He filed a motion for the case to be considered a fourth time.

“McCoy has had several bites at the apple,” attorneys for USC argued in a February filing. “There is no support for another.”

But by the time his motion was to be heard in court Feb. 25, the point was moot. USC had dropped its Title IX complaint against McCoy.

In a letter sent Feb. 15, Spear informed McCoy his case would be dismissed after his ex-girlfriend told USC she would not cooperate in a hearing as part of the Title IX resolution process and would revoke her consent for the school to access her medical records.

The about-face came soon after her restraining order was upheld by the court in January. The order stipulates that McCoy cease any contact and stay at least 100 yards away from her through Jan. 28, 2023. He was also ordered by the court to pay $40,000 for expenses caused by the abuse as well as $30,000 to cover her legal fees.

USC’s attorneys maintained McCoy represented a threat. Spear, in her letter to McCoy, warned that USC could reopen its investigation at any time if circumstances changed.

But McCoy wouldn’t stay at the school much longer. After months spent fighting the university in court, McCoy announced in an Instagram post May 3 that he was trading in his troubled tenure at USC for a second chance at Tennessee.

The same day, in an interview with VolQuest.com, McCoy was asked what made Tennessee the right fit.

“They’re doing things the right way here,” McCoy said. ‘They’re taking care of players the right way, they’re taking care of the off-the-field — everything you could want out of a school.”



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