An inappropriate response

The university needs to address the troubling questions raised in last month’s Temple News investigation of the track & field program.

Nearly a month has passed since The Temple News published the findings of its seven-month investigation of a years-long pattern of abuse and neglect in the university’s track & field program, but the administration still has yet to answer troubling questions raised in the report.

In a brief statement released last week, a Temple spokesperson said university staff and counsel had reviewed The Temple News story and concluded that the school acted “appropriately” in matters related to the teams.

This response alone is inappropriate.

More than a dozen students accused former head coach Eric Mobley, who helmed the program from 2008 until this past June, of verbal abuse, intimidation and dereliction of his coaching duties, among several other questionable and unethical practices.

Safety was compromised.

A discus struck a star runner in March 2012, ending her career. The team was not using a protective cage, as recommended by the NCAA. After the athlete met with Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley the following year to discuss her concerns regarding the program’s lack of proper safety equipment, she said the administrator ensured her that a cage had been purchased. Although athletes said they saw the cage being delivered, as recently as the end of this past season, they claim it was not used.

Former thrower Ebony Moore, who once held a school record, is suing the university, Foley and Mobley for $10 million in damages on claims of harassment, sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. Although the university maintains it investigated Moore’s claims that one of her coaches had made an inappropriate advance toward her and had found those claims to be uncorroborated, a spokesperson only referenced interviews with coaches and Moore’s family – no athletes. Unless other students were questioned about Moore’s complaints, the university’s investigation could not have been complete enough for Temple to jump to such a conclusion.

In May 2013, athletes said dozens of team members met with Foley to complain about Mobley’s coaching style, including verbal abuse and general mismanagement of the teams. The athletes also told Foley of how the program’s limited resources, including its lack of a throwing cage and pole-vaulting pit, were limiting them.

Foley then informed the team that Mobley would not be fired, according to interviews with athletes.

After another season of running the program, during which one athlete said she became suicidal largely due to stress the team caused, Mobley resigned in June 2014. The circumstances regarding his exit remain unclear. Foley’s responsibilities were reassigned, beginning with the 2014-15 season, and she no longer administers the track & field program. A spokesperson wouldn’t say whether the change for Foley was a result of issues related to the track & field teams.

Despite Mobley’s departure and Foley’s reassignment, the university still needs to explain itself.

Why did Mobley remain after the students made serious complaints of mistreatment and neglect? What specifically, if anything, did Foley or others do to alleviate those complaints? Why did the teams not use a throwing cage, even after its absence had resulted in an injury that ended the Olympic dreams of one of the best athletes on the team? What measures are being taken to ensure another Temple sport doesn’t meet the same fate as the track & field program?

That President Theobald and Athletic Director Kevin Clark remain silent in regards to The Temple News investigation is disrespectful to every student-athlete who was victimized by the derelict track & field program.

It has been a tumultuous year for Temple Athletics, with the department’s recent elimination of five Division I sports, including men’s indoor and outdoor track & field. Now, the community deserves answers on how the administration overlooked an abusive coach and failed to address serious problems that plagued the track & field program for years.

With ongoing litigation, it’s not a complete surprise that the university is staying mostly silent in regards to our investigation.

But we expect more than this level of apathy.

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