After months of investigating, this week the Department of Justice issued a damming report saying San Jose State University botched an investigation into a sports trainer accused of sexually abusing more than 20 student athletes.
The report also found the university retaliated against employees who tried to protect the victims.
Now, one of the critical whistleblowers, who was fired for speaking up is now sharing his story exclusively with NBC Bay Area.
Steve O’Brien was the former deputy athletic director at San Jose State.
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He told NBC Bay Area in 2019, swim coach Sage Hopkins shared concerns about an investigation going back more than a decade, looking into suspected sexual abuse by head trainer Scott Shaw.
“That he had mistreated and sexually abused multiple swimmers and that the university’s thin records were not maintained,” he said.
Hopkins took his complaints to the NCAA and O’Brien said top administrators asked him to discipline the swim coach without clearly explaining why.
“I was bring directed to carry that out and it struck me as wrong in an active Title IX investigation. I couldn’t be a party to that," O'Brien told NBC Bay Area Wednesday.
Then, O’Brien took his concerns to CSU legal counsel. Weeks later, former SJSU athletic director Marie Tuite fired him.
“I knew I did the right thing,” he said. “I knew I would have severe professional consequences for me but I thought mostly about the student athletes and the ongoing abuse and the efforts of the swim coach to call them to light and put an end to it.”
Federal investigators concluded 23 student athletes were inappropriately touched by Shaw and blasted San Jose State for allowing him to continue to work with female athletes.
The federal report says he is accused of sexually harassing a student athlete as recently as February 2020. The justice department also admonished the university for retaliating against two employees including O’Brien.
“It does make me grateful I came forward because if I hadn’t, I wonder how much longer it’s would have gone on,” he added.
NBC Bay Area reached out to San Jose State, which provided a statement which said in part: “We thank all the individuals who courageously came forward during the investigation. To the affected student- athletes and their families, we deeply apologize.”
Earlier this week, San Jose State University agreed to pay $1.6 million to the victims and overhaul its Title IX office and its process for responding to sexual harassment complaints.
As, for O’Brien, he and his attorneys are pursuing legal action against the CSU claiming wrongful termination.
“Steve O’Brien acted to protect another whistleblower in a Title IX investigation and he was fired three weeks later,” said Tamarah Prevost, O’Brien’s attorney.
O’Brien told NBC Bay Area that even though his professional reputation took a hit, he would make the same decision again in a heartbeat.
“I have a family. I have to be able to look at them and tell them i did the right thing independent of the consequences,” he said.