The University of Utah has placed gymnastics head coach Tom Farden on paid administrative leave weeks after allegations of abuse were made by former gymnasts Kara Eaker and Kim Tessen.
The leave is effective immediately, according to ESPN. The university did not provide a specific reason for the decision to place Farden on leave.
“This action comes after recent conduct and actions by Coach Farden not related to student-athlete welfare, which simply do not align with our values and expectations,” the school said in a statement.
Associate head coach Carly Dockendorf, who has been with the team since 2018, will serve as interim head coach.
Eaker, who is a former member of the U.S. national team and two-time world champion, retired last month after two seasons at Utah. In an Instagram post, she described her time on the team, which included being a “victim of verbal and emotional abuse.” She says that she has been diagnosed with “severe anxiety and depression, anxiety induced insomnia,” and has experienced panic attacks, PTSD and night terrors, as well as suicidal thoughts.
In her post, she said the alleged abuse happened most often in individual meetings with an “overpowering coach,” though she did not give a name. She describes being “personally attacked, humiliated, degraded and yelled at to the point of tears in front of the whole team.”
Her attempts to report the abuse were “completely dismissed,” she said, with one administrator telling her that Eaker and the coach “just don’t get along.”
Tessen, who competed with the team from 2017 through 2020, shared similar experiences on social media. The program, she said, fostered an “abusive and toxic environment.” She, too, dealt with “crippling depression and anxiety” while on the team as well as “suicidal ideation.”
Farden, who was named co-head coach in 2016 and has been the program’s sole head coach since 2020, was the subject of and investigation into the team’s culture that concluded in September. An outside law firm, Husch Blackwell, found that Farden “did not engage in any severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student-athletes” and “did not engage in any acts of physical abuse, emotional abuse or harassment as defined by SafeSport Code.”
It was determined that Farden made a derogatory comment to a member of the team, but other incidents couldn’t “be independently corroborated” and were denied by the coach. He also “more likely than not threw a stopwatch and a cellular telephone in frustration in the presence of student-athletes,” but the investigation said that the behavior was “not repeated or severe.”
Eaker called the investigation “incomplete at best” in her social media post and said it lacked credibility.
“The report omits crucial evidence and information,” she said, “and the few descriptions used are inaccurate.”
“I’m speaking out for all of the women who can’t because they are mentally debilitated and paralyzed by fear,” she added. “I can no longer stand by while perpetrators are still allowed in sports and are causing young girls and women to suffer.”