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Utah parts ways with gymnastics coach after abuse allegations

Tom Farden is out as Utah gymnastic head coach after allegations of abuse from former gymnasts. (Aric Becker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tom Farden is out as Utah gymnastics coach nine days after he was placed on paid administrative leave. He was placed on leave weeks after allegations of abuse from former gymnasts Kara Eaker and Kim Tessen.

In a statement Tuesday night announcing the move, the university said the two sides had “mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately.”

“The past several months have been an extremely challenging time for our gymnastics program,” athletic director Mark Harlan said in the statement. “Changes like this are never easy, and only come after extensive analysis and discussion. In this case, the decision provides necessary clarity and stability for our student-athletes and prevents further distraction from their upcoming season.”

Farden’s exit comes after Eaker and Tessen detailed allegations of abuse from their time in the program. Separately, both wrote about their time with the team on social media.

Eaker, a former member of the U.S. national team and two-time world champion, retired last month. In an Instagram post, she wrote 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 due to the “verbal and emotional abuse” she experienced during her time on the team.

Her attempts to report the abuse were “completely dismissed,” she wrote, 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, noting that the program fostered “an abuse and toxic environment.”

Previously, the school said that the decision to place Farden on leave was “not related to student-athlete welfare” but declined to share further details.

Earlier this fall, an independent law firm investigated the program, but 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.” In her Instagram post, Eaker called the investigation “incomplete at best.”

Farden had been co-head coach of the program since 2016 and was named sole head coach in 2020. In a statement, he said that it is “difficult to say goodbye” to the university, “but the time has come for me to embark on a new chapter.”

Carly Dockendorf, who was named interim head coach in his absence, will continue in the position for the 2024 season.