Former Montana women's soccer coach Mark Plakorus texted back and forth nearly 500 times with 10 different Las Vegas-based escorts on his University of Montana-issued cellphone, according to public records obtained by the Missoulian.
The texts date back to February 2015 and pop up again in January 2016, March 2016, April 2016, March 2017 and June 2017 — all months Plakorus took recruiting trips of varying lengths to Las Vegas.
Most of the text conversations Plakorus had with the 10 escorts were while he was in Las Vegas, but on the morning of Feb. 11, 2015, phone records indicate that Plakorus and a 29-year-old escort sent seven text messages back and forth while Plakorus was in Missoula. That was two full days before his recruiting trip to Las Vegas began.
Montana Athletics ousted Plakorus on Jan. 30 after a UM investigation discovered he was texting escorts on a university cellphone. Montana's Athletics Director Kent Haslam and Senior Associate Athletic Director Jean Gee looked through Plakorus' cellphone records after several women's soccer players complained that their coach was texting them excessively and at inappropriate times, among other things.
Despite the messaging metadata being available, the individual text messages themselves were not released because, according to Lucy France, UM's General Counsel, UM's Office of Legal Counsel did not have access to the contents of the text messages.
In total, there were 491 texts between Plakorus and the 10 escorts before or during those six recruiting trips to Sin City, according to his cellphone records. During the six-day April 2016 trip, Plakorus texted five different escorts.
"I acknowledge that I should not have used my University cell phone for personal messages," Plakorus said in an emailed statement to the Missoulian on Friday. "I apologize for this situation and understand I have to live with the consequences of my actions. My personal life did not impact the student athletes or my performance as a coach. I understand that people’s perceptions will vary."
Plakorus, 49, texted some of the escorts more than others.
Plakorus and a 26-year-old escort texted back and forth 266 times in February 2015, January 2016, March 2016, March 2017 and June 2017.
Plakorus and a 22-year-old escort messaged 72 times in March 2017. And Plakorus and a different 29-year-old escort messaged back and forth 70 times in April 2016, March 2017 and June 2017.
Others only texted with Plakorus on one day. For example, Plakorus reached out to a 35-year-old escort on Jan. 22, 2016 and the two sent seven messages between each other that day. Plakorus texted that same escort once on March 18, 2016 and three more times over the three-day span of April 3-5 but the escort did not respond to any of those four additional messages.
Plakorus told the Missoulian in February that he didn't use an escort service and used personal ads to find "some companionship," but four of the 10 escorts Plakorus had text conversations with were listed on "The Erotic Review" — a website that touts itself as "the most comprehensive database featuring providers and escorts from all over the world." The other six were listed on other websites with names such as "Escort Fish," "Erotic Monkey," "Escort Wiz," "TS Escorts" or "Transresumes." All of the escorts described themselves as escorts in their biographies on those websites.
Plakorus told the Missoulian in February that he went home with some of the escorts and that it's his choice as to how he spends his personal time on recruiting trips. He admitted that using his UM-issued phone for personal use was a mistake.
“I fully admit that I used my university phone, sometimes for personal use,” Plakorus said in early February. “Should I have? No, I shouldn't have and I'll admit that. But to me, that's the only crime that I committed, or not even a crime. I violated a university policy of usage of your cellphone.”
Haslam and Gee found Plakorus' texts to escorts while investigating Plakorus' behavior, as multiple players alleged to the Missoulian back in February that Plakorus exhibited behavior that made them uncomfortable.
Plakorus said in February that the allegations that players made against him were false and that he hadn't heard about any complaints until Dec. 5, 2017, when Haslam and Gee told him they were conducting a women's soccer climate survey to evaluate the players’ claims.
The university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action met with 39 people in regard to the climate study, according to a document obtained by the Missoulian via public records request.
The survey found that, "Despite open-ended questions, the concerns focused almost solely on the behaviors of the head coach," and eight different themes emerged.
Some of the themes, as outlined in the document:
- Head coach not respecting or being fully aware of boundaries and non-verbal indicators regarding physical personal space
- Head coach not respecting or being fully aware of boundaries or consistency of official versus personal communications
- Perceptions of favoritism by the head coach unrelated to performance
- Poor team morale
Other themes, according to the document, allege that Plakorus routinely was texting and driving and that there were feelings of separation between upperclassmen and underclassmen players.
According to the document summarizing the climate survey findings, "Themes did not only come from one or two players, or from a single class; they came from numerous players, in all classes. Themes also came from staff experience and observations."
"Any efforts to relate my personal texts to claims of misconduct related to my work as a coach are unfair," Plakorus said in the emailed statement. "The University acted appropriately when it initiated a climate survey regarding the soccer program after student athletes brought concerns forward. The University explained to me the survey did not find inappropriate action on my part that required further investigation regarding my conduct with the student athletes. I was specifically informed that the climate survey did not factor into the decision to not renew my contract."
The complaints that led to the climate survey, which was concluded on Jan. 4, 2018, weren't the first directed to Haslam and Gee, according to a 2013 email obtained this week by the Missoulian via public records request.
In September 2013, a player complained about text messages and phone calls. Gee wrote in the email that she pulled Plakorus' phone records from August 2013 and September 2013 for at least one player and looked at text messages between "all team members" and Plakorus for September 2013, but didn't "see anything concerning" at that time.
Montana Athletics originally released the news of Plakorus' departure as a resignation on Jan. 30. In a follow-up interview with the Missoulian that same day, Haslam said it was a "mutually agreed" upon decision for Plakorus and UM to part ways.
The Missoulian reported two days later that he was fired after a UM investigation found he'd used a university-issued cell phone to text the escort services.