University of Kentucky Fires All Cheerleading Coaches

May 20, 2020

The University of Kentucky fired the entire coaching staff for its nationally ranked cheerleading program on Monday, citing a lack of oversight of cheerleader behavior during team retreats and off-campus events. The behavior included public nudity, alcohol use and hazing, according to the university.

A three-month investigation by the university found that the team’s four coaches and an administrative adviser who worked with the program for four decades “failed to stop a culture” of inappropriate behavior, Eric Monday, executive vice president for finance and administration, said in a press release. The release described cheerleaders on an annual retreat “hurling their teammates from a dock into the water while either topless or bottomless” within the view of coaches and performing sexually explicit chants. Coaches allowed cheerleaders to drink alcohol while partially naked and riding on boats at the retreat, and several members of the team had to get medical help due to excess alcohol consumption, the release said.

The investigation also revealed conflicts of interest for two coaches who ran gymnastics businesses and employed cheerleaders, according to the release. One of the coaches used the university’s logo and relationship with cheerleaders to market his business and misled cheerleaders to think they had to work at one of the gyms in order to try out for the team at the university, the investigation report said.

A family member of a cheerleader alerted the university of the inappropriate behavior in February, which sparked the investigation, Monday said. The university interviewed more than 60 students, coaches and administrators involved in cheerleading to conclude the program, which has won 24 national championships in the last 35 years, needed to be overhauled, the release said. The athletics department will start a national search for a new head coach “immediately” and the annual retreat will be discontinued, the release said.

“We place the safety and health of our students above all other priorities as a university,” Provost David Blackwell said in the release. “We cannot truly have a championship cheerleading program if we do not protect the health, safety and well-being of our students.”

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