SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The independent review into emotional and verbal abuse allegations surrounding the University of Utah gymnastics head coach has returned with nuanced results that ultimately did not find his behavior to have crossed the line of abuse.
The University of Utah‘s award-winning gymnastics program went under review after its head coach, Tom Farden, allegedly verbally abused and physically intimidated members of the team. Today, Sept. 14, the university shared the results of the review with the public.
The independent review, conducted by the law firm Husch Blackwell, found that Farden’s actions caused some student-athletes to feel “increased fear of failure,” but were not “severe, pervasive or egregious” acts of abuse as defined by NCAA regulations, the press release said.
The review interviewed 45 individuals and found that some athletes had negative experiences with the coach and increased pressure to keep their athletic scholarships.
While Farden’s behavior was not found to have crossed the line of abuse defined by the NCAA and SafeSport Code, the law firm did suggest five recommendations moving forward to help improve behavior and the overall environment.
The suggestions include creating a performance improvement plan for Coach Farden, regularly monitoring team practices and competitions through the Student-Athlete Advocate, involving parents in the gymnastics program, providing greater education to student-athletes on their athletic scholarships, and assigning Athletic Department leaders to regularly attend meetings and practices with the team.
The university will be implementing these suggestions with Coach Farden moving forward.
The university’s Athletic Director Mark Harlan released a statement along with the review’s results thanking everyone who participated in the review and especially thanking those who originally shared their concerns.
The director continued to say there were multiple incidents in which the coach could have reacted with greater professionalism and self-control. He said he personally met with Coach Farden to “express [his] disappointment and to share with him [his] expectation moving forward.”
The director concluded his statement by saying he remains confident in Coach Farden’s ability to coach the gymnastics program and create an environment that “helps our student-athletes reach their greatest athletic potential while supporting their health, safety and well-being.”
“The Department of Athletics will continue to support our gymnastics program, including our student-athletes and coaches, in their efforts to maintain an elite program that consistently pursues excellence,” Harlan said.
The university has made the review accessible to the public and can be found here.
Coach Farden also commented on the review, saying he takes the concerns about his behavior and coaching methods “very seriously” and it has been “painful to learn of the negative impacts that [his] words and actions have created.”
He also said he respected everyone who came forward with concerns saying their input “has caused me to humbly reflect and hold myself accountable in order to improve.”
Farden’s full statement can be read below:
“I care deeply about the health, safety and well-being of every student whom I am entrusted to coach, to mentor and to support as head coach of the Utah gymnastics program. With that privilege comes great responsibility, and I take very seriously the concerns that were expressed about my behavior and my coaching methods. It has been painful to learn of the negative impacts that my words and actions have created, and I have thoroughly examined the accounts of every person who shared their experience through their participation in the program review.
I have always placed a high priority on cultivating a positive and nurturing environment that allows our students to thrive not only as gymnasts but also as individuals, and I have learned of the areas that I must improve upon. I take to heart every lesson I have learned through this process, and I am fully committed to improving our student-athlete experience.
I’d like to express my gratitude for the trust and support of Mark Harlan and Charmelle Green, as well those who have expressed their support for me throughout this entire process. I also embrace and respect the courage of those who expressed negative experiences from their interactions with me. Their input has caused me to humbly reflect and hold myself accountable in order to improve.
I understand the magnitude of the responsibility of leading this historic Red Rocks program, and the high standard of expectations that come with it. I believe in open communication, mutual respect, and teamwork, and will move forward confidently in my commitment to being better for every person whom I’m entrusted to lead as head coach of the Red Rocks.”Coach Tom Farden