AMES — Bill Fennelly stood tall in front of the group of reporters on Friday and took a deep breath. He was set to address the lawsuit filed against him, Iowa State University and the State of Iowa by former player Nikki Moody for the first time publicly.
A cheery smile that usually covers the face of the long-time Iowa State women’s basketball coach wasn’t there. Neither were the usual ‘Hi, how you guys doings,’ or any pleasantries at all.
This was a man that was here to try and set the record straight, at least from his side of the story.
“I will tell you when someone, or your personal character is attacked, it’s devastating,” Fennelly said while trying to choke back tears. “I feel bad for the people around me who have to suffer through this with me. They didn’t sign up for that. The one kind of weird good thing in this is my grandson is not quite two. He’s the most brilliant two year old in the world, as we all know. He can’t read what some of you are writing about his grandpa. He can’t hear what some people are saying about his grandpa. That gives me a little solace. I’m not going to deny who I am. I’m a passionate, emotional person because everyday I am 100 percent committed and invested in the people I work with and I work for. I will not apologize for that. I am not, I am not the person I’ve been accused of.”
The passion in Fennelly’s voice never left. He didn’t have the look of a man whose reputation was hanging in the balance. He kept his head high and answered question after question without speaking in specifics about the lawsuit.
This is a lawsuit that has painted a picture of Fennelly that most people cannot believe.
“I know the kind of person I am,” Fennelly said. “I know the kind of coach I am because everyday we show up and we work hard to make our players better citizens, better students, better players until they’re ready to go on with their life. I love my job and I love everything about Iowa State. You see signs all over this building about the Iowa State way of doing things and I’m more committed to that than I’ve ever been. I’m going to be doing the same thing I’ve been doing every single day.”
A lot of people would back down in a situation like this. It would have been easy for Fennelly to see the allegations, tuck his tail between his legs and ride off into the sunset. Some people might not have even blamed him.
The ramifications of these allegations are still unclear. It is too early to make any sort of judgment. Fennelly said there has not been a negative impact on recruiting. His current players continue to do their thing to prepare for next season.
There is just this cloud hanging over the program right now. The key will be not allowing it to turn into a storm.
“I look forward to the process. I have great faith in the legal system,” Fennelly said. “We’ll see how it plays out but I look forward to a time when we can share our side of the story.”
Fennelly and Iowa State’s side of the story will come out over time. This isn’t something that is going to go away quickly. In fact, the whole saga is really just beginning.
On Friday, Bill Fennelly stepped to the microphones and took a deep breath. The things he said next didn’t sound like a man that was beaten down or tired. He sounded like a ship captain that sees the storm coming.
He is ready to face it head on.
“I don’t think you should change when your motives and your belief is to make people better, make people accountable, make people do the right thing,” Fennelly said. “I am who I am. If it gets to a point where what I do and how I do it is not right anymore, somebody will make that decision.”