During the first week of school this fall, The Temple News broke an exclusive investigation about the degeneracy of the university’s track & field program and how the administration for years overlooked an abusive coach and anguished victims.
As a former athlete who saw the track team as instrumental to my high school experience, these events are disheartening at least and appalling at most. It’s even worse to see schools treat these events as something to be kept from the public eye.
The Temple News reported that more than a dozen athletes accused former track & field head coach Eric Mobley of verbal abuse, intimidation and dereliction of his coaching duties, among a myriad of other questionable and unethical practices. The investigative report also included details of how the teams held practices without proper safety equipment, which led to a star runner being accidentally struck in the back by a discus during a Spring 2012 practice. The injury ended the runner’s career.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley met with students to discuss their grievances with the program. Athletes say that dozens of students met with Foley in May 2013 to voice concerns about Mobley and the program. But the athletes said that Foley informed the team that Mobley would not be fired. The university says it took action to address student concerns with the program.
Mobley has since resigned and Foley is no longer responsible for overseeing the track & field program. Temple won’t disclose the reasoning behind Mobley’s departure and Foley’s role change. But the moves come after years in which the administration overlooked the team’s mismanagement.
Of course, this isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Temple. Instances of abuse, discrimination, violence and harassment run rampant at schools throughout the nation.
In April 2013, Rutgers’ men’s basketball program gained national attention when video surfaced of its head coach, Mike Rice, verbally and physically abusing members of his team. Rice was fired shortly after.
This year alone, several collegiate coaches have resigned due to serious allegations of wrongdoing. In April, Boston University women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenberg resigned following an internal investigation. The same month, Butler women’s basketball coach Beth Couture was fired after students made allegations of abuse. The University of Iowa’s field hockey coach, Tracey Griesbaum, was relieved of her duties after the university launched an investigation into accusations of mental and verbal abuse.
A track & field team, or any sports team, has a job to provide opportunities to students for fitness, camaraderie and extracurricular activities. It’s a place for students to work and achieve with each other, under the guidance of coaches and instructors that act as positive role models.
When these role models fail to meet expectations, and indeed go against the role they are supposed to serve, something has gone terribly wrong.
Were it not for vigilant student reporting, the situation might have also neglected to have been addressed.
If the administration fails to keep students informed and aware when neglect and scandal occur, whose job is it to stop the truth from being buried entirely? The administration offered a meager three lines on Mobley’s resignation, and has lacked transparency both before and after The Temple News published its report.
For many student-athletes, their sport is as important as their studies. And being a student-athlete can be an extremely challenging position. The Temple News talked to athletes who became depressed, and even suicidal as a result of the derelict track & field program.
To see an institution like Temple fail in such a harmful way is tragic. When it comes to handling serious internal athletic matters and providing a safe and appropriate environment for its student-athletes, Temple really needs to step up its game.
Jason Pepper can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @pepperjasona