A Mission Failed

Issues with the university’s track & field program reveal a dire need for reform in its athletic department.

On a snow-filled January evening, as tears dripped from Ebony Moore’s face, our investigation began.

During an interview with The Temple News earlier this year, Moore became emotional while providing reporters with specific details of the bullying, sexual harassment and neglect she said she suffered while competing for the university from 2009-11.

As we soon realized, Ebony Moore was not alone. Other athletes have deteriorated in similar ways – physically and mentally – as a result of competing for the university’s track & field program.

During our investigation of the teams, more than a dozen athletes made troubling accusations about Eric Mobley’s coaching style, including his verbal abuse toward students and general recklessness in managing the team.

Moore, who said she became suicidal due to her experience with the program, filed a $10 million lawsuit last year against the university, Mobley and Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley.

Before our investigation began, some of the students we interviewed had already voiced their concerns regarding Mobley and the program – not to their university’s student newspaper, but to Foley.

Perhaps the most unsettling find of our investigation is that Mobley was allowed to continue coaching, even after the Temple administrator was informed of his behavior.

Since 2011, Foley has held multiple meetings where athletes voiced concerns regarding the derelict track & field program.

During one of these meetings, held in May 2013, athletes say dozens of team members gathered in Temple’s athletic offices at 1700 N. Broad St. The students were there to formally address and inform Foley of Mobley’s temperamental coaching style, among other problems like the program’s lack of proper safety equipment, which led to a career-ending injury for former star runner Victoria Gocht.

Athletes said Foley was presented with several complaints about Mobley and the program, some of which were extremely concerning, but Foley informed the group that the head coach was here to stay.

The administrator kept her word.

Mobley remained in his position for another year after the team-initiated meeting with Foley. During that time, The Temple News has learned, a member of the women’s team considered killing herself largely due to stress the team caused.

In June 2014, the university announced Mobley’s resignation and thanked the head coach for his service to the program. The department wished him well.

It’s unclear whether Foley notified President Theobald and Athletic Director Kevin Clark, both of whom took office last year, of the troubling complaints she heard from track & field athletes during recent years. Interview requests for Foley, Clark and Theobald were denied, but a spokesperson for the university said “appropriate steps” were taken in responding to student concerns about the track & field program.

But the administration cannot hide behind the fact that Mobley is gone. The effects of his carelessness, along with the administration’s oversight and inaction, linger. Theobald needs – and should feel obligated – to address the athletes, parents, alumni and community with how the university plans to ensure such maltreatment never happens again.

For guidance, the department may benefit from taking a look at its mission statement. In it, the university vows to maintain an environment where its students can “maximize their athletic, academic and life-skill potential” through the presence of “high level coaches and administrators” with a goal to “instill a winning attitude on and off the field.”

But for Temple, which spent less money on its track & field program last year than any other school in its conference, such a vow was bound for failure when its lackluster budget was coupled with an abusive coach and a neglectful administration that failed to adequately suppress the mistreatment.

The Temple News urges the university to take appropriate action against anyone within the athletics department who failed to protect the lives and careers of its student-athletes. The glaring issues that our reporters found with this investigation should be addressed with transparency and immediate reformatory action, rather than downplayed.

Until then, Temple’s athletic department will continue to operate under an empty promise.

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