Temple University is examining allegations raised in a student newspaper that a former head coach of track and field verbally abused, intimidated, and compromised the safety of his athletes, the chairman of the university board of trustees said Wednesday.
The report, published this week in the Temple News, contended that for years, the school failed to respond to the complaints.
"We will get a recommendation with respect as to how it was handled and next steps in the next several days," board chairman Patrick O'Connor said.
The lengthy investigation focused on Eric Mobley and detailed a federal lawsuit filed by former discus thrower Ebony Moore, who said she was sexually harassed by an assistant coach and verbally abused by coaches and teammates while a team member from 2009 to 2011.
Moore contended in court papers that when she informed Mobley, he advised her to "handle" her own "business," and that Temple later revoked her athletic scholarship.
Moore told the Temple News that she became so despondent when no one at the university helped her, she considered suicide.
Under federal law, Mobley would have been required to report a sexual-harassment allegation from Moore and the university would have needed to investigate. Temple is one of dozens of schools nationwide under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possible violations in handling of sexual-assault and harassment cases. It's unclear whether Moore's case is part of the investigation.
In a statement Wednesday, Temple said it investigated Moore's allegations in 2011 and found them - including the assertion that an assistant coach made a sexual advance toward her - uncorroborated. The investigation, university spokesman Ray Betzner said, included meeting with coaches, Moore, and Moore's family.
Betzner said Moore's athletic scholarship was revoked "based upon the student's failures to participate fully in team activities," a decision upheld by a university appeals panel. The university, however, provided Moore with nonathletic financial aid for 2011-12 to allow her to finish her education, he said. The university has denied Moore's allegations in court papers.
Moore filed her lawsuit in June 2013, about a month after a group of track and field athletes complained to an athletic department administrator about Mobley, according to the Temple News.
The university announced in June that Mobley had resigned, and thanked him for his service. On Wednesday, university officials declined to detail the circumstances of his departure, saying it was a personnel matter.
But in a statement, the university said staff had met with track and field athletes to hear their concerns, addressed those issues with the coaching staff, and "worked with the human resources office, among other offices on campus, to take appropriate steps." Betzner also said none of those concerns included allegations of sexual harassment, gender inequality, or sexual misconduct.
Two other assistant coaches named in Moore's suit also left Temple, in 2010 and 2011, Betzner said. The men's track and field team was one of several programs Temple cut this year. The women's team remains.
In her lawsuit, Moore, who is from Georgia and is representing herself, said the abuse started her first year: "I was called . . . insulting epithets on a daily basis," she wrote in an addendum to her complaint.
She wrote that a coach made a sexual advance and turned on her when she refused. Another coach, she wrote, made sexually explicit remarks about his girlfriend within earshot. And Mobley, she wrote, screamed at athletes and used foul language.
The Temple News report said that students repeatedly complained to senior associate athletic director Kristen Foley, but that Mobley was allowed to continue coaching.
Foley did not return a call for comment Wednesday. Mobley, who had coached the team since 2008, also could not be reached for comment.
University officials declined to say whether Temple president Neil D. Theobald, who arrived in January 2013, and athletic director Kevin Clark, who took over in November, were aware of the allegations.
The Temple News also said the track and field team failed to look out for the welfare of its athletes. It cited the case of Victoria Gocht, a runner who was accidentally struck in the back by a discus during a practice in 2012. The university was not using a protective cage at the time of the incident, as the NCAA advises, according to the report.
"We trust our staff to use the right safety gear in the right circumstances," Betzner said. "Unfortunately, while we work to minimize accidents as best we can, they can and do happen in all sports."