Investigation finds U of U gymnastics coach did not engage in ‘egregious’ abuse

Sep 14, 2023, 3:58 PM | Updated: 5:41 pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — An independent investigation into University of Utah women’s gymnastics coach, Tom Farden “did not engage in any severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student-athletes.”

Utah gymnastics program under review

The University of Utah retained Husch Blackwell to do an independent investigation into the allegations that Farden had verbally and emotionally abused athletes, and disregarded injuries.

The company released its methods and findings Thursday that Farden, in one circumstance, “violated the Student-Athlete Health, Safety and Well Being Program of the University’s Athletics Department” with a comment made.

The full release of the findings can be found here. 

Husch Blackwell released a 45-page review of the investigation where they interviewed 45 total individuals, including all 12 student-athletes from the 2022-23 team, 7 former student-athletes, 5 parents of student-athletes, 6 members of the current coaching staff, 11 athletics department staff members and administrators, and 4 former staff members.

The review went through each allegation, explaining the findings against the allegation.

The findings state that Farden did not engage in any acts of emotional or verbal abuse, did not engage in any acts of physical abuse.

Some student-athletes alleged that Farden made comments that, if corroborated, violated the Athletics’ Well Being Policy’s prohibition on degrading language.  The investigation found that these comments were isolated occurrences that could not be independently corroborated and were denied by Farden. There was ultimately not enough evidence to sufficiently prove that Farden violated the policy.

Another allegation was that Farden was targeting specific athletes and mistreating them. Farden denied the allegation and the majority of current student-athletes and staff members denied observing Coach Farden target particular student-athletes with negative treatment. The findings concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to prove Farden had been targeting student-athletes for mistreatment.

The review found Farden did likely throw a stopwatch and cell phone in frustration in the presence of student-athletes. Those actions were isolated and “not repeater or severe and therefore did not violate SafeSport Code for Physical Acts of Emotional Misconduct.”

The review did not find that Farden disregarded injuries, but did discover that Farden had questioned the recommendations of one former athletics trainer. The investigation found that additional gymnastics coaching staff also had concerns about the accuracy of diagnoses provided by this specific former athletics trainer.

Farden released the following statement:

“I care deeply about the health, safety and well-being of every student whom I am entrusted to coach, to mentor and to support as head coach of the Utah gymnastics program. With that privilege comes great responsibility, and I take very seriously the concerns that were expressed about my behavior and my coaching methods. It has been painful to learn of the negative impacts that my words and actions have created, and I have thoroughly examined the accounts of every person who shared their experience through their participation in the program review.

“I have always placed a high priority on cultivating a positive and nurturing environment that allows our students to thrive not only as gymnasts but also as individuals, and I have learned of the areas that I must improve upon. I take to heart every lesson I have learned through this process, and I am fully committed to improving our student-athlete experience.

“I’d like to express my gratitude for the trust and support of Mark Harlan and Charmelle Green, as well those who have expressed their support for me throughout this entire process. I also embrace and respect the courage of those who expressed negative experiences from their interactions with me. Their input has caused me to humbly reflect and hold myself accountable in order to improve.

“I understand the magnitude of the responsibility of leading this historic Red Rocks program, and the high standard of expectations that come with it. I believe in open communication, mutual respect, and teamwork, and will move forward confidently in my commitment to being better for every person whom I’m entrusted to lead as head coach of the Red Rocks.”

The review stated the majority of student-athletes expressed their care for Farden as a coach.

“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 review stated.

Farden has been coaching with the Utah Utes since 2011.

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Investigation finds U of U gymnastics coach did not engage in ‘egregious’ abuse