CORONAVIRUS

University of Iowa fraternity cleared in making of Barstool Sports 'mockumentary'

Phi Kappa Psi 'did not host a tailgate,' investigator concludes

University of Iowa junior Dave Lannon picks paint off his fingers as other members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in 2001 p
University of Iowa junior Dave Lannon picks paint off his fingers as other members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in 2001 paint the front of the house before university classes began in Iowa City. The fraternity was cleared recently of alcohol violations for a “mockumentary” filmed by Barstool Sports. (Associated Press)

IOWA CITY — A University of Iowa fraternity recently investigated for its involvement in a Barstool Sports video on “The Science Behind a Frat Party” did not commit any violations, according to campus investigators who determined it was a “mockumentary.”

“The fraternity did not host a tailgate,” according to an investigative report sent last month from the UI Office of Student Accountability to Phi Kappa Psi. “The ‘tailgate’ depicted in the video did not have alcohol present. B-roll footage, not affiliated with the staged ‘tailgate,’ does depict alcohol at tailgates, but Phi Kappa Psi was not involved in that footage.”

A member of Phi Kappa Psi, located just south of Hancher Auditorium along Riverside Drive, came to the UI accountability office in December “to get in front of an issue he believed would come to the University of Iowa’s attention.”

The issue was his fraternity brothers’ involvement in a video produced and published by the popular Barstool Sports website and blog that appeared to depict a UI tailgate — with students hoisting cases of beer, chugging bottles of liquor and dousing themselves in a variety of beverages.

In response to the report, UI administrators launched an investigation into the chapter’s potential violation of three rules — including ones involving alcohol and unregistered events.

Upon learning of the investigation, Barstool Sports personality Caleb Pressley — who made the video — proactively reached out to Anita Cory, UI assistant director for student organization misconduct and the investigating officer assigned to the incident.

“The ‘Doorman’ video was a comedic mockumentary of college life that I made for my job at Barstool Sports,” Pressley wrote in his Dec. 18 email to Cory. “This was in no way a real situation, and the entire sequence was filmed in less than 10 minutes.”

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In staging the clip, Pressley said, he asked a UI campus representative to find some fraternity members willing to play character roles. He set up a faux tailgate entrance using folding tables, and he simulated a large crowd by asking a small number of participants to stand close together.

“As was with their characters, the atmosphere and illusion of a party was also an intentional creation by me,” he wrote. “We called the gathering of people a ‘fraternity party’ when it was in actuality no such thing.”

After conducting other interviews, including with UI fraternity members who participated in the filming, Cory found evidence lacking to prove a violation of any rules.

“Although several current members attended the filming of the video, the event was staged by Barstool Sports, and alcohol was not provided by the fraternity nor Barstool Sports,” she wrote.

Had the footage been real, it would have been problematic for a slew of reasons — including that UI Fraternity and Sorority Life leadership years ago imposed a systemwide alcohol moratorium after a UI freshman in 2017 died from drug- and alcohol-related causes at an out-of-town formal.

Phi Kappa Psi was under several sanctions for past violations when the university launched the Barstool Sports investigation in December.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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