University of Kentucky (CNN) (05/19/20)— The University of Kentucky fired its entire cheerleading coaching staff after an investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct, including hazing, alcohol use, and public nudity on the team.
The three-month investigation found that four coaches and an administrative assistant “failed to provide reasonable oversight during off-campus events,” the university said in a press release.
The investigation revealed alleged misconduct at a retreat and other off-campus events, ranging from cheerleaders being encouraged to perform stunts and chants while partially nude to excessive consumption of alcohol that required medical treatment for several cheerleaders.
At a team retreat in Lake Cumberland, some cheerleaders performed gymnastics routines known as “basket tosses” that included hurling teammates from a dock into the water while either topless or bottomless, the investigation found. The routines were performed within the view of at least some of the coaches, according to the investigation.
In another incident, at a cheerleading camp in Tennessee, some cheerleaders were directed by other members to perform lewd chants and wear outfits that did not include underwear, according to the university.
The investigation found no evidence of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.
“The advisor and the coaches failed to stop a culture of hazing, alcohol use, and public nudity at off-campus activities where they were present,” Eric N. Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration, said in a release. “Our students deserve more responsible leadership and the University of Kentucky demands it.”
Head coach Jomo Thompson and assistant coaches Ben Head, Spencer Clan, and Kelsey LaCroix were dismissed.
The investigation also found “lax oversight and poor judgement” by T. Lynn Williamson, the program’s advisor and the university’s principal deputy general counsel. He retired days after learning of the investigation, UK said.
None of the coaches nor Williamson have responded to CNN’s requests for comment.
The investigation began in February after a cheerleader’s family member alleged inappropriate conduct by squad members and inappropriate oversight by coaches at off-campus trips, according to Monday.
Kentucky’s cheerleading team is one of the most successful programs in the country and has won 24 national championships in the past 35 years, including four straight from 2016 to 2019.
“A commitment we make and renew every day at the University of Kentucky is that the success of our students is at the center of everything that we do. But for that sentiment to be more than words, we must always act in ways that honor that commitment, especially when we discover rare instances where those who supervise and guide our students don’t meet the standards of integrity we expect of each other. This is one of those times,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “The University of Kentucky has built the nation’s premier collegiate cheerleading program. But regrettably, the integrity of the program has been compromised by inappropriate behavior by some squad members on off-campus trips and by lax oversight by the program’s coaches and advisor.”
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