May 06, 2016
Penn State University’s athletic department is looking into allegations that actions by coaches on its women's gymnastics team led several student-athletes to experience emotional distress and, ultimately, quit.
In a report published by Penn Live – which followed up on previous reports by Penn State’s student paper, The Daily Collegian – the coaches, Jeff and Rachelle Thompson, are accused of prying into gymnasts' personal lives, mocking their weight and appearance, forcing them to practice despite injuries and threatening to pull scholarships if demands weren’t met.
Former Penn State gymnast Kristin Blades told Penn Live that the husband-and-wife coaching pair had pressed her on details about her personal relationship. She then alleged that they threatened to pull her scholarship if she didn’t break up with the guy.
"Rachelle told me, 'We have eyes everywhere,'" Blades told Penn Live. "It was frightening."
Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour told Penn Live the department is in the “midst of postseason evaluations for all of its programs, including the women's gymnastics team,” adding that “the department's evaluation of the gymnastics team will take extra time and effort because of the accusations.”
Barbour added that the Thompsons "are cooperating fully and look forward to learning how they can improve."
Penn Live requested interviews with the Thompsons and gymnasts. The school said the student-athletes are taking finals this week. The interviews were not granted before Penn Live's report was published.
Read the full report at Penn Live.