Detroit Lions president Rod Wood defended the team’s approach to checking into head coach Matt Patricia’s background before hiring him in February.
Wood says the team employed a security firm to do a background check on Patricia, entrusting that their knowledge of local and federal laws would be best.
“We always err on the side of hiring a firm who understands all the laws, follows them, state and federal,” Wood said Saturday, per ESPN. “So that we don’t happen upon something that we’re not entitled to have nor would we would be able to use.”
Despite the team’s diligence, a 1996 sexual assault case involving Patricia wasn’t discovered.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, non-conviction felonies aren’t reportable after seven years. The team could have found the information through other means, but Wood said he didn’t think that was the right approach.
“There might be ways for companies, teams in our case, to find information out about a prospective employee through other means than the legal means,” Wood said to ESPN. “I guess if others wanted to do that, that’s their prerogative. I’m only in charge of what the Lions do and I want to do it the right way.”
Patricia, then a football player for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one of his friends were accused of sexually assaulting a woman in South Padre Island, Texas, during spring break in 1996. Patricia, then 21, and Greg Dietrich, then 22, were arrested and later indicted by a grand jury on a count of sexual assault, according to the Detroit News. The charges later were dropped without a trial when the woman declined to testify, according to the News.
Patricia denied allegations he was involved in a sexual assault in a press conference at the team facility on Thursday.
“Thankfully, truth is on my side,” Patricia said while reading a prepared statement after discussing a bombshell report with his team earlier in the day. “I was innocent then, and I am innocent now.”
Patricia said his mission is to move forward, “100 percent the head coach of the Detroit Lions,” and said he was never asked about the incident during the interview process.
“As far as the interview process (with the Lions) is concerned, there was nothing that I did not answer truthfully,” Patricia said.
Patricia was an assistant coach with the New England Patriots from 2004-2017, spending the past six years as the team’s defensive coordinator. He helped lead the club to three Super Bowl championships and six Super Bowl appearances.
—Field Level Media