The University of Kentucky announced Monday that they have fired all four of the schools’ cheerleading after a three month investigation found the coaching staff and administrative advisor failed to provide reasonable oversight during off-campus events.
There, inappropriate conduct by members of the cheerleading squad included hazing activities, alcohol use and public nudity was found to have taken place.
Head Coach Jomo Thompson and Assistant Coaches Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix were all relieved of their duties according to a press release from the University.
The press release states a lax of oversight and poor judgment by T. Lynn Williamson, who served as the cheerleading program’s advisor for four decades. In response, Williamson has retired and will be directed to avoid contact with the Cheer team.
“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.”
The investigation also found potential conflicts of interest for two members of the coaching staff who ran gymnastics businesses that employed members of the cheerleading squad and the advisor, who hired students and coaches to perform work at his home.
“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,” said Eric N. Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration. “Our students deserve more responsible leadership and the University of Kentucky demands it.”
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart has directed Sandy Bell, executive associate athletics director, to lead the program, including the hiring of a new coaching staff.
“This must be a championship-level program both on and off the court and playing fields,” Barnhart said. “And as with all our sports, that will be our goal — every day.”
The University’s three-month investigation included interviews with more than 60 students, coaches and administrators in the cheerleading program. 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.
Kentucky’s cheerleading program has won 24 national championships in the past 35 years.