The University of Kentucky cheerleading team has fired its entire coaching staff after an investigation uncovered incidents of hazing, public nudity and excessive alcohol use among cheerleaders.
The university announced the news on Monday in a detailed release. Head coach Jomo Thompson and assistants Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix were all fired.
The school also cited “lax oversight and poor judgment” by adviser T. Lynn Williamson, who resigned after the the investigation started following four decades with the team. Williamson had been barred from having contact with members of the team.
Kentucky has the nation’s most prominent college cheerleading program, laying claim to 24 of the last 35 national championships.
“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,” UK executive vice president Eric N. Monday said in the statement. “Our students deserve more responsible leadership, and the University of Kentucky demands it.”
UK: Public nudity, alcohol at team retreat
A call from a family member in February prompted the investigation which revealed a party atmosphere at a team retreat at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky.
The investigation found that team members conducted gymnastics routines called “basket tosses” that involved cheerleaders tossing each other into the water from a dock while topless or bottomless. This was done at the direction of other team members and in view of team coaches, according to the release.
Former team members brought boats and alcohol to the retreat. The cheerleaders had boat parties while team members were partially nude, according to the release. Several team members required medical treatment from consuming excess alcohol as coaches did nothing to intervene.
At a separate cheerleading camp in Tennessee, members of the team were directed by others to perform lewd chants while wearing outfits without underwear.
UK: Conflicts of interest
The investigation also revealed conflicts of interest involving members of the coaching staff who hired cheerleaders to work at gymnastics businesses they ran, according to the release.
Oversight of the cheerleading program has been reassigned to the athletic department in wake of the scandal. The program will conduct a national search for a new coach.
Kansas cheerleading scandal
Monday’s news from Lexington arrives a week after accusations of hazing were levied upon the University of Kansas cheerleading program. Two KU cheerleaders described a hazing ritual where six first-year team members were told to strip naked and walk into a room where male alumni were present. Some were told there that they were too ugly and not skilled enough to make the team, according to a cheerleader.
One cheerleader said she was placed inside a washing machine during the ritual.