The University of Kentucky announced Monday that it has fired all four of its cheerleading coaches after a three-month investigation found instances of “hazing activities, alcohol use and public nudity” by the school’s cheerleading team at off-campus events.

Jomo Thompson, Kentucky’s coach since 2003, and assistants Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix all were fired. T. Lynn Williamson, the school’s principal deputy general counsel who served as the team’s adviser for four decades, retired days after learning about the investigation, the school announced in a news release. In 2015, Williamson received the Sue Feamster Trailblazer Award, given by the school “to those who have provided exceptional leadership and paved the way for others to succeed.”

“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,” Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said in the statement. “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 adviser.”

Said Kentucky Provost David Blackwell, “We believe these activities were not confined to the past year, and may have been tolerated for many years.”

Eric Monday, Kentucky’s executive vice president for finance and administration, said later Monday that the school did not dismiss any of its cheerleaders following the investigation. Monday said the probe began after the school received a call from a cheerleader’s family member in February alleging “inappropriate conduct by squad members and inadequate oversight by coaches during off-campus trips,” the statement read.

After interviewing more than 60 students, coaches and administrators in the cheerleading program, the school found that the coaches “knew or should have known of inappropriate conduct by cheerleaders”; that, at a team retreat, team members demanded that others on the team perform “basket tosses,” in which people were thrown off a dock into a lake while topless or bottomless, and that this was done “within the view of at least some of the coaches”; that the coaches allowed team alumni to bring boats and alcohol to the retreat, and that team members drank on the boats while “partially naked”; that coaches did not stop team members from bringing alcohol on the trip, and that some members got so intoxicated that they required medical treatment; and that, at a cheerleading camp in Tennessee, team members ordered others “to perform lewd chants and wear outfits that did not include underwear.”

“The adviser and the coaches failed to stop a culture of hazing, alcohol use and public nudity at off-campus activities where they were present,” Monday said. “Our students deserve more responsible leadership and the University of Kentucky demands it.”

The school’s investigation also found that two of the coaches had hired team members to work at their cheerleading businesses and that Williamson had hired team members to perform work at his home. Kentucky’s Office of Internal Audit is reviewing whether that violates the school’s conflict-of-interest rules.

Moving forward, the cheerleading program will be placed under the oversight of Kentucky’s athletic department. Over the past 35 years, Kentucky has won the Universal Cheerleaders Association national college championship 24 times. In January, the team placed third in the event.

“The annual retreat will be eliminated, and all off-campus trips will be closely supervised,” said Sandy Bell, the Kentucky associate athletic director who will now oversee the program. “Cheerleading squad members will be held to the same standards as all our student athletes. It’s a new day for UK cheerleading.”


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