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San Jose City Council Commends Coach, Former Deputy Athletic Director For Exposing Alleged Sex Abuser In Women's Athletic Dept.

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Two key figures in the San Jose State athletes' sex abuse investigation received commendations from the City Council and mayor on Tuesday, marking their first joint public appearance.

Councilmember Maya Esparza, who sponsored the commendation, addressed swim coach Sage Hopkins and former Deputy Athletic Director Steve O'Brien during the afternoon city council session.

"Steve O'Brien and Sage Hopkins, for your courage and conviction, and standing up for the survivors of sexual abuse, we are so honored to present this commendation," said Esparza.

Tuesday's recognition comes nearly three weeks after SJSU President Mary Papazian resigned in the wake of the decade long case.

Around 2009, Coach Hopkins began receiving reports that Scott Shaw, an athletic trainer, was inappropriately touching female athletes underneath their bra and underwear during treatment sessions.

Hopkins reported the cases to university administrators, who investigated, but later approved of Shaw's methods as "pressure point therapy."

Dissatisfied with the university's response, Hopkins eventually reported the alleged abuse to the NCAA.

READ: Resolution Agreement between The United States of America and San José State University</a

In response to the complaint to the NCAA, university administrators issued poor performance reviews, and ordered Steve O'Brien, the Deputy Athletic Director at the time, to meet with Hopkins regarding "allegedly insubordinate behavior toward a coworker", according to the DOJ report.

O'Brien refused to do so, saying it would constitute retaliation for Hopkins' complaints to the NCAA. As a result of O'Brien's refusal, administrators reduced his job responsibilities, and ultimately fired him.

In September, following a months-long investigation, the Department of Justice issued a scathing report and concluded that SJSU retaliated against Hopkins and O'Brien. Also, as part of the federal settlement, "SJSU's President will express appreciation, in writing, for…efforts to protect student-athletes from sexual harassment."

The federal investigation identified 23 victims, 13 of whom agreed to a total settlement of $1.3 million. SJSU agreed to implement sweeping changes to its policies, training, and enforcement. >

"Although underlying this commendation is the sadness, of suffering of others, and dismay that the actions that coach Hopkins and I took should be so uncommon has to warrant public recognition," said O'Brien. "To the student-athletes, I'm incredibly sorry for the abuse you suffered, and the uphill battle you faced to remedy the situation. I applaud your courage and resilience throughout the ordeal. You're a source of strength for many, and I wish you the same on your own personal journeys of healing and recovery moving forward."

"As I've said, this is not in should not be about me. Our thoughts empathy and passion should be with the dozens of survivors from six separate teams at San Jose State. And our focus should be on their healing," said Hopkins at Tuesday's ceremony.

Hopkins credited family support that carried him through the 11-year ordeal.

"Especially as a father of a daughter, of wanting the right thing to be done for women to protect women," said Hopkins. "While this represents an ugly chapter in the history of San Jose State, I ask that people view it for what it is. These are the actions of a serial predator and a small group of rogue administrators who enabled his abuse over a 10-plus year period. None of these people represent our university for what it truly is. A vibrant, diverse and transformational campus, that is led by a world-class faculty, and blessed with an amazing student body."

Wayne Wright, former SJSU women's gymnastics coach, said the council commendation was for "doing what was right".

"For them to come forward, it speaks volumes about their character. And I think it's just long overdue to be recognized for something that they felt that they needed to do, and had to do," said Wright.

Councilmember Esparza hoped to inspire, and show support, for future whistleblowers.

"I think it's important for us as institutions to stand up and say 'Thank you for doing what's right. Thank you for making us better. Thank you for protecting people that need to be protected,'" said Esparza.

SJSU officials emailed a statement: "San José State University gratefully acknowledges the efforts of all who bring forward reports of sexual abuse."

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