Kentucky Cheerleading Alumni Voice Support for Fired Coaches in Hazing ScandalMay 21, 2020
On Thursday, the University of Kentucky's cheerleading alumni released a statement in support of fired head coach Jomo Thompson, assistant coaches Ben Head, Spencer Clan, and Kelsey LaCroix and advisor T. Lynn Williamson, who were all released by the school following an investigation into alleged hazing on the team.
"To say the UK cheerleading advisor and coaches lack integrity is insulting," the statement read, per KentuckySportsRadio.com. "To suggest that the advisor and coaches didn't provide proper oversight is absurd. To so harshly penalize a program—especially one that has led such an exemplary existence for four-plus decades—is unfair!"
A number of current and former Kentucky cheerleaders also spoke out against the firings:
Riley Aguiar @RileyAguiar
This program is the epitome of professionalism. It’s not only made me a better athlete, but also a much better person. This greatly affects myself and my teammates who have worked our whole lives to get to this university/team. Please don’t feed into lies that are hurting us. https://t.co/IJs44Ah4jj
The university said in a statement that its investigation over the course of three months found the fired parties "failed to provide reasonable oversight during off-campus events," per Eric Levenson of CNN.com.
That investigation found that cheerleaders were "encouraged to perform stunts and chants while partially nude" during off-campus events and retreats, which included "gymnastics routines known as 'basket tosses' that included hurling teammates from a dock into the water while either topless or bottomless."
Per the investigation, some of those incidents took place within eyeshot of coaches, though no instances of sexual abuse or misconduct were discovered.
The investigation also uncovered excessive alcohol use that resulted in several cheerleaders needing medical attention.
"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," the university's executive vice president for finance and administration, Eric N. Monday, said in a press release, per Levenson. "Our students deserve more responsible leadership and the University of Kentucky demands it."
The cheerleading alumni countered in their statement: "At some point, it is up to the squad members to behave in a manner that lives up to the standards established and demanded by the advisor and coaches."