The University of Kentucky fired cheerleading head coach Jomo Thompson on Monday after a three-month investigation into hazing, public nudity, and alcohol consumption that occurred at an event off-campus, according to a press release from the college. Assistant coaches Ben Head, Spencer Clan, and Kelsey LaCroix have also been fired. Thompson had been head coach of Kentucky’s cheerleading squad since 2002.
The investigation also uncovered “lax oversight and poor judgment” by team advisor T. Lynn Williamson, who has served as an advisor to the cheer team for four decades. Williamson retired within days of learning of the investigation and was directed to have no contact with the cheerleading squad.
The investigation stemmed from a call a family member made back in February expressing concerns about inappropriate behavior by squad members, and lack of oversight from coaching staff at team retreats held off-campus.
At a retreat last year at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, members of the cheerleading team performed basket tosses, a stunt performed by tossing a cheerleader into the air, while topless or without underwear under the direction of other squad members in full view of some of the coaches.
Cheer alumni that were present for the retreat brought alcohol, which was consumed by some of the squad members while boating, some partially naked, to the point that several members of the squad became so intoxicated that they required medical treatment. Coaches were aware of the presence of alcohol and did not confiscate it.
At a cheer retreat in Tennessee, members of the squad told their teammates to “perform lewd chants and wear outfits that did not include underwear.”
The investigation did not find any evidence that sexual assault or misconduct occurred.
Kentucky President Eli Capilouto issued a statement:
“A commitment we make and renew every day at the University of Kentucky is that the success of our students is at the center of everything that we do. But for that sentiment to be more than words, we must always act in ways that honor that commitment—especially when we discover rare instances where those who supervise and guide our students don’t meet the standards of integrity we expect of each other. This is one of those times,” the statement read.
“The University of Kentucky has built the nation’s premier collegiate cheerleading program. But regrettably, the integrity of the program has been compromised by inappropriate behavior by some squad members on off-campus trips and by lax oversight by the program’s coaches and advisor.”
Kentucky has won 24 national championships in the last 35 years and is considered the top cheerleading program in the country, bleacher report reports.
Sandy Bell, executive associate athletics director, has been tasked with leading the program, including the hiring of a new coaching staff. A national search will be conducted for a new coach.
“The annual retreat will be eliminated, and all off-campus trips will be closely supervised,” Bell said. “Cheerleading squad members will be held to the same standards as all our student-athletes. It’s a new day for UK cheerleading.”
During the investigation, it was also discovered that several of the coaching staff members, who ran gymnastics businesses also employed members of the cheerleading squad, creating a potential for conflict of interest. The advisor, presumably Williamson, hired coaches and students to perform work around his house. These conflicts are now being investigated by the Office of Internal Audit.
“This must be a championship-level program both on and off the court and playing fields,” Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said in the school’s release. “And as with all our sports, that will be our goal — every day.”
The findings of the investigation come one week after a pair of University of Kansas cheerleaders came forward about an incident of hazing that happened back in 2017 at a children’s camp.