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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U Gymnastics Investigation Finds No Abuse, Recommends Compassion

The review found that Farden did not engage in any “severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student athletes.”
University+of+Utah+womens+gymnastics+head+coach+Tom+Farden+talks+about+the+Red+Rocks+performance+following+a+dual+meet+versus+the+Stanford+Cardinals+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+March+6%2C+2020.+%28Photo+by+Kiffer+Creveling+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Kiffer Creveling
University of Utah women’s gymnastics head coach Tom Farden talks about the Red Rocks’ performance following a dual meet versus the Stanford Cardinals at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on March 6, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

An independent review into University of Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden found that Farden did not engage in any “severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student athletes.” The report also stated that according to the SafeSport Code, Farden did not engage in any acts of emotional abuse, physical abuse or harassment. 

The independent review, conducted by Kansas City-based law firm Husch Blackwell, was ordered by the U following allegations from several former athletes and parents that Farden engaged in emotional and verbal abuse of his athletes, as well as physical intimidation. 45 people were interviewed, including every member of the current gymnastics team, former athletes, parents, and current and former staff members.

Despite the findings that Farden did not engage in abuse, he did make a derogatory comment to one athlete stating that if she wasn’t at the U, she’d be a “nobody working at a gas station.”

“We find this comment was personally degrading, and, although isolated, violates the Athletics’ Well Being Policy which prohibits the use of degrading language,” the report read.

Additionally, the report found that Farden “more likely than not” threw a stopwatch and cell phone out of frustration in front of the athletes. However, because the incidents were not repeated or severe, they did not violate the SafeSport Code for Physical Acts of Emotional Misconduct.

Head coach Tom Farden congratulates University of Utah women’s gymnastics senior Kim Tessen on her perfect 10 following her performance on the vault in a dual meet vs. the Stanford Cardinal at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on March 6, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Kiffer Creveling)

Other allegations from former gymnasts included that Farden targeted student athletes for negative treatment and disregarded their injuries. The report found that these claims could not be corroborated.

It did find, however, that Farden’s management of athletic scholarships on a year-to-year basis “resulted in some student athletes experiencing an increased fear of failure.” The year-to-year management is consistent with industry standards.

“Despite these findings, we note that a majority of student athletes interviewed, two-thirds of the student athletes who participated on the 2022-23 Women’s Gymnastics Team, and all but one current or former staff member affiliated with the Women’s Gymnastics Program described Coach Farden as a caring, passionate coach and did not report any concerns related to the treatment of student athletes,” the report read.

Husch-Blackwell made five recommendations for the athletics department following their findings. These include implementing a performance improvement plan for Farden that addresses appropriate communication with athletes and emotional intelligence, finding a way to include parents in the gymnastics program and assigning athletics department leaders to attend more gymnastics practices. 

Another recommendation stated the athletics department should continue to support the role of student athlete advocates and educate student athletes about that role.

In a press conference with student media members on Thursday morning, U President Taylor Randall commented on the review and praised the role of student athlete advocates, a position he said is unique to the U.

“Their role is to be an open door for athletes that are finding and having issues, and I would say the early indication here is that that process worked,” he said. “These were the first people that our athletes went to.”

In an email statement, the athletics department said they would implement all five recommendations. 

“I want to thank all of our current and former student athletes, coaches and staff members who participated in the reviews and especially the young women who first came forward with concerns,” Utah Athletics Director Mark Harlan said in the statement. “We must continue to foster a culture in Utah Athletics in which student athletes have the confidence, the ability and the systems to report concerns.”

Harlan added that while he was found not to have violated NCAA or SafeSport policies, “there were a handful of instances in which Coach Farden should have demonstrated greater compassion and self-control and better professionalism.”

“I met with Coach Farden this week to express my disappointment and to share with him my expectations moving forward,” he added. “Both Chief Operating Officer/Deputy Director of Athletics Charmelle Green and I will be even more vigilant in monitoring his conduct and his coaching methods, and he will be held to a higher standard moving forward.”

 

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About the Contributor
Caelan Roberts
Caelan Roberts, News Editor
Cael is double majoring in English and journalism which gives him a chance to fully explore his passion of writing. He loves working at the Chronicle and is excited for the opportunity to edit on the news desk and work with leadership and writers.

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