Eastern Kentucky University announced Thursday its decision to retain Jane Worthington after completing an investigation into allegations of misconduct against the Colonels' longtime softball coach.
As reported by NBC affiliate WLEX in Lexington, the investigation began after Kaitlyn Young, a former softball student-athlete, came forward online with misconduct allegations against Worthington, who has coached at EKU for 30 years. Young cited mental and physical abuse by Worthington during her career at EKU. Multiple formers players spoke with WLEX with similar complaints, adding that Worthington played "mind games" on them, such as using the silent treatment or belittling them. Two other former players also defended Worthington, letting WLEX she was tough but not abusive.
At the time, EKU athletic director Matt Roan released a statement referring to the allegations as "serious" and said they "require a thorough examination of the facts."
The university says its investigation began immediately after the former player's post about Worthington appeared on Twitter on July 4. The probe involved interviewing more than 30 current and former players, staff members and administrators. "The investigation found no EKU policy violations, criminal conduct by EKU coaches, or previous filings of formal complaints," EKU stated in a release on its website. "In addition, no NCAA concerns were identified."
“As a former student-athlete, there is nothing more important to me than the experience of our student-athletes,” Roan said. “At Eastern Kentucky University, we take all allegations involving our athletics department seriously. We have fully cooperated throughout the investigative process with EKU Human Resources and appreciate the thoroughness of the review. The daily objective of EKU Athletics is to continually improve in every aspect of intercollegiate athletics. We will, in addition to implementing planned program and department improvements, follow the recommendations resulting from the review. I want to express my appreciation for all those who came forward and participated in the investigation.”
The university also announced that on June 14, its Board of Regents approved a full-time sports psychologist, a full-time director of softball operations, and increased Sports Medicine and Sports Performance personnel and resources, including a dietitian.
While the investigation found no violations, evidence was found to indicate needed improvement in the areas of communications, nutritional and mental health resources, and use of effective motivational tactics. The EKU athletic department says it's also implemented the following:
- Educate coaching staffs on better ways to communicate with student-athletes
- Emphasize with student-athletes the proper channels to address concerns and bring forth grievances
- Clearly communicate the aspects of nutrition as a Division I student-athlete, as well as the use of performance analytical data in ensuring peak performance and student-athlete safety
- Provide leadership development for student-athletes and coaches
- Ensure all athletic strength and conditioning activities are reviewed by Sports Performance staff