POCATELLO — No disciplinary action will be taken against Idaho State University head football coach Rob Phenicie, the school determined after investigating claims of assault made against the head coach.
Phenicie was accused of angrily hammer-punching the shoulder pads of then-Bengals safety Jayson Miller during halftime of the team’s game Nov. 10, 2018, at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. ISU stated in a Tuesday news release that “the thorough investigation, launched immediately after receiving the complaint, found the allegations to be unsubstantiated. No disciplinary actions will be taken against the coach related to this matter.”
“We are committed to the safety and well-being of all our students,” ISU President Kevin Satterlee said in the press release. “Idaho State University took these allegations very seriously, and we will always take steps to ensure a thorough and complete investigation informs our actions in these matters. When we identify areas of the university that need to be improved, we will always take that as an opportunity to provide a better environment for our students.”
ISU’s decision is the latest chapter of a months-long saga that has pitted Miller against Phenicie, ISU and the school’s athletic department. Along with the alleged assault, Miller disclosed in his complaint text messages sent to him and his teammates by a former assistant coach that contained “race and gender-based themes,” according to ISU. That coach, former safeties coach Jay Staggs, has been relieved of his duties.
Miller’s complaint also outlined negligence of due diligence by ISU regarding his playing eligibility. Since Miller missed all but one game of the 2017 with a knee injury, he played most of the 2018 season under the impression he was a redshirt junior. He found out he was a senior six days before the Bengals’ final game of the season, because the documentation necessary to get Miller an extra year of eligibility was not filed.
ISU ultimately filed a medical hardship application on Miller’s behalf after the 2018 season, but the Big Sky Conference denied it because it did not contain “contemporaneous medical documentation from a certified medical professional.”
The crux of Miller’s complaint — Phenicie’s alleged punches — was put to bed Tuesday by ISU.
The next verdict to be handed down will come from the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, which is investigating Miller’s allegations against Phenicie as a misdemeanor.
Miller told the Journal on Tuesday that he is disappointed in the university’s findings through its investigation.
“If I had a nightmare about what (ISU’s) report was going to look like, that was it,” Miller told the Journal on Tuesday. “In my opinion, anyone who puts their hands on a player shouldn’t be coaching anymore, shouldn’t be working in an educational setting at all.”
ISU has granted Miller a scholarship through May 2020 to correct its admitted errors in handling Miller’s eligibility. Miller said he plans to leave Pocatello at an undetermined date and return to his home sate of California.
“I have lost a lot from this. Lost friends, I’ve lost my (senior) season,” Miller said. “At this point, it is what it is. Stuff just got derailed. I’ve got to prepare myself for after college now. I’m not going to be playing football like I’ve been planning on.”
Phenicie commented publicly on the situation for the first time in Tuesday’s press release, saying, “We are developing a program the campus and our fans can be proud of. We will embrace every opportunity to get better. Our team is focused on continuing its positive trajectory. I appreciate the effort and commitment of every student-athlete, and they can expect the same exemplary commitment from our coaching staff. I recognize that every action matters as we work to achieve and sustain excellence.”
The press release says ISU is continuing a separate investigation into the actions of the athletic department regarding Miller being misinformed about his eligibility status.
“We have now put in place processes and communication protocols which would have prevented this circumstance from happening. Every student-athlete will be fully and accurately informed regarding their official status,” interim athletic director Pauline Thiros said in the release. “Idaho State athletics will ensure student-athletes get the most out of the opportunities available to them in all of our programs.”
“I am confident in coach Phenicie’s ability to further build the culture we all desire,” Thiros added.