LEXINGTON, Ky. (WAVE) – The University of Kentucky fired four cheerleading coaches following an investigation involving hazing, alcohol use and public nudity, according to the university.
UK announced Monday head coach Jomo Thompson and assistant coaches Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix were dismissed from their duties with the program.
The three month investigation, which included interviews with more than 60 students, coaches and administrators in the cheerleading program, found the coaching staff “failed to provide reasonable oversight during off-campus events where inappropriate conduct by members of the cheerleading squad included hazing activities, alcohol use and public nudity," according to UK.
Cheerleading program advisor T. Lynn Williamson retired days after learning about the investigation and was told not to have contact with the squad, according to UK. The investigation found Williamson had “lax oversight and poor judgement.”
“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,” UK president Eli Capilouto said. “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.”
UK Provost David W. Blackwell said the review found:
- Coaches knew or reasonably should have known of inappropriate conduct by cheerleaders and failed to take sufficient steps to address the conduct;
- During a team retreat at Lake Cumberland, some cheerleaders performed gymnastics routines that including hurling their teammates from a dock into the water while either topless or bottomless. The routines, known as “basket tosses,” were done at the direction of other members of the squad and within the view of at least some of the coaches;
- Coaches allowed cheerleading alumni to bring boats and alcohol to the retreat, where some cheerleaders were partially naked and/or drinking while riding on boats;
- Coaches did not confiscate alcohol brought to the retreat by some squad members or intervene to stop students from consuming alcohol. Several squad members became so intoxicated they required medical treatment; and
- During a cheerleading camp in Tennessee, some cheerleaders were directed by other members of the squad to perform lewd chants and wear outfits that did not include underwear.
University of Kentucky Athletics will now oversee the cheerleading program.
Executive associate athletics director Sandy Bell has been appointed to lead the program and hire a new coaching staff. Bell is hoping to hire a new coach within a month.
Bell said the annual retreat will no longer take place.
“The annual retreat will be eliminated, and all off-campus trips will be closely supervised,” Bell said. “Cheerleading squad members will be held to the same standards as all our student athletes. It’s a new day for UK cheerleading.”
No evidence of sexual assault or misconduct were found.
Potential conflicts of interest involving two coaching staff members were also uncovered. According to the investigation, the staff members ran gymnastics businesses and hired coach and students to perform work. The Office of Internal Audit is reviewing those findings.
The University stated the investigation began after a family member called alleging inappropriate conduct by squad members.
UK Athletics director Mitch Barnhart decided to fire the coaches based on multiple reports, including those by the Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity, by the Office of Student Conduct and a jointly authored report that included input from an expert outside UK with expertise in employment law, according to the university.
UK officials said the coaches are not receiving any financial compensation as part of their dismissal.
No cheerleaders have been dismissed.
Bell said the investigation should not impact any championships the squad won.
The investigation reports can be found here.