Foley out as track administrator, university investigates claims

Patrick O’Connor said Temple is examining details from last week’s track & field report.

Skyler Burkhart | TTN
Skyler Burkhart | TTN

Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley – the main administrator named in last week’s Temple News investigation of how the university overlooked an abusive track & field coach and anguished victims for years – will not oversee the track & field program this season, athletic communications confirmed last week.

Foley, who oversaw the administration of track & field and nearly a dozen other Temple sports programs, continues to supervise women’s basketball, crew, rowing and women’s volleyball. Senior Associate Athletic Director Joe Giunta has replaced Foley as the department’s track & field administrator.

An athletic department spokesperson said the role change for Foley took effect on July 1. However, the move was not made public until last week when Foley’s profile was updated on the athletic department’s website. The day before the administrative changes were made earlier this summer, former track & field head coach Eric Mobley’s ties with the university were cut and the near-century-old men’s track & field team was eliminated from the university.

The department’s spokesperson wouldn’t say whether the administrative switch was a result of previous problems and student concerns with the track & field program Foley was overseeing.

The Temple News’ investigation, published on Aug. 26, found that more than a dozen students accuse Mobley of verbal abuse, intimidation and dereliction of his coaching duties, among a myriad of other questionable or unethical complaints. Members of the track & field teams met with Foley at least three times since 2011 in efforts to alleviate severe team issues, including many that involved the head coach. In one of the meetings, athletes say, dozens of team-members approached Foley in May 2013 to voice concerns about Mobley – including his verbal abuse and mismanagement of the program. Despite Foley listening their concerns, multiple students at the meeting recall her informing the group that Mobley would not be fired.

Mobley remained with the university for another season, and during that time a student-athlete said she became suicidal largely due to stress the team caused. Mobley’s resignation was announced in early June. The university won’t comment on the circumstances regarding his exit.

In a statement released following the publication of The Temple News’ investigation, Associate Vice President for Executive Communications Ray Betzner acknowledged that students had complained about the program following the 2010-11 season, but specified only by saying that two of the concerns involved “communication” and “team management” and that none of them involved “sexual harassment, gender inequality or sexual misconduct.” In the statement, Betzner said the concerns were addressed through the involvement of various administrative offices, student-athletes and coaches.

Betzner did not say which, if any, of the concerns were resolved prior to Mobley’s resignation. It’s unclear whether Foley notified Clark or President Theobald of student concerns regarding the track & field program.

Following the release of The Temple News’ investigation of the track & field program, Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor told the Inquirer that the university is examining the details of the report.

“We will get a recommendation with respect as to how it was handled and next steps in the next several days,” O’Connor said last Wednesday.

A university spokesperson declined to comment on O’Connor’s statement.

Former thrower Ebony Moore – who was interviewed multiple times by The Temple News for its investigative report – filed a civil-action lawsuit in June 2013 against the university, Mobley and Foley, seeking $10 million in damages on claims of harassment, sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. This past May, a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss those claims, likely ensuring trial or settlement in the case.

Moore said she was sexually harassed by one of her coaches during the 2009-10 season, her first year with the team. She says she reported the abuse to Mobley and was told to “handle” her “business.” Under federal law, the university would have been required to investigate the claim.

The following year, Moore said she informed Foley of how the mistreatment she experienced while competing for Mobley and the program nearly led her to a suicide attempt in her dorm room following an April 2011 practice.

Emails obtained by The Temple News show Temple’s former Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw and former President Ann Weaver Hart were sent notification in 2011 of Moore’s claims of abuse and sexual harassment. Betzner said the university took Moore’s complaints seriously and conducted an investigation into the matter – one that included meetings with Moore, Moore’s family and coaches.

Betzner said the university found Moore’s claims to be uncorroborated, but didn’t state whether other student-athletes besides Moore were consulted or approached during the course of the investigation. He attributed Moore’s revoked scholarship to her inability to “participate fully in team activities.”

Moore missed the team’s final three regular season meets of the 2011 outdoor season after, according to interviews with members of her family, she was hospitalized due to her near-suicide attempt.

Last week’s Temple News investigation also detailed how the track & field teams competed without proper safety equipment, which led to at least one serious injury. In March 2012, former star runner Victoria Gocht was struck in the back by a discus during a practice, ending her career.  The program was not utilizing a protective cage for its throwers, as the NCAA requires during competition and recommends during practice.

A year after suffering the injury, Gocht met with Foley to discuss her discomfort in returning to practice without a protective cage in place. Gocht said Foley ensured her that a cage had been purchased, but as recently as the end of this past season, it was not used.

The track & field program began its season last weekend, as the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at the Covered Bridge Open in Boone, North Carolina.

Newly hired head coach Elvis Forde declined to comment on The Temple News investigation, but said he supports the vision Giunta and Athletic Director Kevin Clark have for the future of the track & field program.

Forde added that, as the team moves into its second year in the American Athletic Conference, he wants to be a “father figure” for his student-athletes.

“I’ll be someone to talk them up and motivate them from a psychological standpoint and make them feel like I’m here for them,” Forde said.

“We’re all in this together.”

Avery Maehrer and on twitter @AveryMaehrer

1 Comment

  1. At last some movement after a long wait. What took the department this long? For once, clean up athletics and make us students and alums proud again.

    How about a long hard look at basketball? How many players in the post-Staley era were recruited AND graduated from Temple? How can we have one senior a year when we recruit many more freshmen each year?The program has seen lots of complaints and incidents, including a recent physical altercation between players and an RA at 1940 after summer. We saw these so-called role models with beers on hand in the hall! Talk about issues being “swept under rug”. Word is that unreasonable demands on time and staff disregard for school even give acad advisors very little time in helping kids with academics. Do the coaches care? And how about the pattern of mental abuse that keep poor kids on edge and afraid?

    AD Office, as you investigate the Mobley years, you might as well look at an underperformer.

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