Officials with the University of Eastern Kentucky’s human relations department recently spoke with at least 14 former players/staff who had expressed concerns about the behavior of the longtime softball coach at the University of Kentucky. school, Jane Worthington.
Several players and staff have advanced allegations of physical, mental and verbal abuse which they say occurred over a period of decades.
EKU’s internal investigation into these accusations only lasted two weeks, however.
The results of this investigation were published in a report on Thursday afternoon.
“The investigation did not reveal any violations of EKU policy, any criminal conduct by EKU coaches, or any formal complaint filed,” a statement from the university said. “Furthermore, no NCAA concerns have been identified.”
Worthington will remain the school’s coach and face no penalties.
She is expected to return for her 31st season.
EKU Softball assistant coach Hayley Sims, who was also investigated by the university, will also remain on staff.
The report indicates that EKU will adopt the following recommendations:
Educate coaching staff on better ways to communicate with student-athletes.
Emphasize appropriate channels for student-athletes to address concerns and air grievances.
Clearly communicate aspects of nutrition as a Division I student-athlete, as well as the use of performance analytics data to ensure optimal performance and student-athlete safety.
Provide leadership development for student-athletes and coaches.
Make sure all athletic strength and conditioning activities are reviewed by Sports.
The announcement prompted an immediate response from some of the former players who had spoken to investigators.
“I almost lost my best friend to suicide while playing EKU,” said Kaitlyn Young. “Now someone else can actually lose theirs. So sad. Such a joke.
Young was the first to speak out publicly against Worthington.
In a July 4 Twitter post, she accused the coach of bullying, manipulating and also withholding food from the team after losses, particularly on the road. His allegations prompted others to share their stories, which contained similar concerns.
The Register spoke to 10 former players over the past two weeks, including some who played for EKU as far back as 1998. Most of the players who spoke to The Register echoed statements made by Young, while others other former players have praised Worthington’s coaching in recent weeks.
The school’s report said officials interviewed 31 former or current players, coaches, assistants, coaches and staff, seven of whom are currently employed by the school.
The 14-page report examines numerous specific charges against Worthington, saying in each case that “the available evidence and information does not establish on a preponderance that (Worthington) or (Sims) acted in violation of 8.3.3HRR (EKU’s Human Resources Employee Conduct Regulations), regarding the allegations.
How these allegations were framed — even in the simplest of terms — was a liability investigators placed on the accusers, the report said.
“Several witnesses said they felt ‘abused’ and ‘manipulated’ by Worthington and/or assistant coach Hayley Sims, but witnesses did not clearly define the meaning of these words,” the report said.
However, the same standard was not expected of all interviewees.
“(Worthington and Sims) have each denied mistreating or abusing players. Additionally, current and former athletics staff members interviewed by Human Resources generally corroborated that they had not witnessed any behavior (Worthington or Sims) that they would consider mistreating and/or abusing. “, says the report. “Additionally, current and recently former athletics staff members interviewed by Human Resources said they had not received any complaints from current or former players regarding behavior by either (Worthington or Sims) that would be considered mistreatment and/or abuse.”
The report repeatedly concludes that Worthington and Sims did not breach 8.3.3HRR – which aims to regulate the conduct of every university employee.
The policy, which was included in the report, begins with this statement: “Eastern Kentucky University seeks to create an environment in which employees are civil, collegial, and respectful of individuals and individual differences. The university expects all employees to conduct themselves in a way that contributes to this environment. »
The guidelines also spell out the definition of “gross misconduct,” which is grounds for immediate dismissal. They include: “Any action or creation or participation in a situation that endangers mental or physical health in a reckless or intentional manner”, “bullying or harmful conduct” and “threatening, intimidating, interfering with or using abusive towards others.
The report repeatedly states that due to Worthington’s position and the competitive level of the EKU softball program, the regulations outlined by the university may not apply to its personnel.
“The available evidence and information does not establish on a preponderance basis that either (Worthington and Sims) acted in violation of 8.3.3HRR, particularly in the context of an NCAA Division I sport “, says the report. “To the contrary, the available evidence and information supports that (Worthington and Sims) have demanding, competitive and ‘difficult’ coaching styles which sometimes result in intense experiences for some players. Further, the available evidence and information confirms that the (Worthington’s) coaching style has always been demanding, competitive and challenging throughout her career at EKU, and some players have not responded well to this style.
EKU athletic director Matt Roan addressed the conflicting standards shown in the report during a meeting with The Register on Thursday afternoon.
“I think what the report was referring to was the environment – whether it was weight rooms, training grounds and competition grounds,” he said. “It is understood that the voices must be raised. Just understanding that cultural expectations are different than they would be in a classroom. »
The report says that in the days following the initial social media accusations, 13 additional people reached out to EKU in support of Young, “some making their own allegations.” Additionally, 19″ reached out to support “Worthington.
Numerous correspondences – mostly emails – were included in the report (the full PDF of which is attached to this article).
Players on EKU’s current roster – which is just seven – were told of the school’s decision to retain Worthington during a Thursday afternoon Zoom call with Roan, which reportedly lasted just two minutes .
Another meeting between the players and Roan has been set for 10:30 p.m. Thursday.