Athletic Director Liz Jarnigan fired amid alleged abuse cover-up on women’s swim and dive team

Athletic+Director+Liz+Jarnigan+congratulates+players+after+the+game+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+16%2C+2019+after+the+Salukis+76-65+win+against+the+Tennessee+Tech+University+Golden+Eagles.+

Isabel Miller | @isabelmillermedia

Athletic Director Liz Jarnigan congratulates players after the game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019 after the Salukis’ 76-65 win against the Tennessee Tech University Golden Eagles.

The Equity and Compliance Office has launched an investigation into allegations made by SIU women’s swim and dive athletes saying their coach, Geoff Hanson, emotionally and sexually abused them since 2019, according to Chancellor Austin A. Lane. Athletic director Liz Jarnigan has since been fired.

Two former athletes, referred to as Athlete 1 and Athlete 2, spoke anonymously to The Daily Egyptian about their experiences with Hanson. The former athletes requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. 

Athlete 1 said Hanson inappropriately commented on athletes’ swimsuits in front of the team, made sexual comments about team members feminine hygiene, touched an athlete’s inner thigh in front of the team, consistently threatened to remove athletes’ scholarships and went over the maximum 20 hours of training per week, which is regulated by the NCAA.  

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In a meeting on Oct. 9 2020, multiple swim and dive athletes had a meeting with The Equity and Compliance Office, where Jarnigan was present. The sources said they described Hanson’s conduct and have yet to see any corrective measure. 

Athlete 1 said parents of two team members notified Lane of their abuse allegations via email on Sept. 7. Jarnigan was fired on Sept. 9. Lane has directed athletes’ and parents’ concerns to the interim athletic director, Matt Kupec, who is the chief executive officer of the SIU Foundation.

Lane released a statement on Sept. 10 thanking Jarnigan for her work at SIU and announcing a national search for a new athletic director. 

The Daily Egyptian asked Lane for comment regarding athletes’ abuse claims. He said Sept. 7 was the first he heard about them  and he can’t confirm that they resulted in Jarnigan’s termination.

“We’re going to make sure our student athletes are safe and that they feel like they can not only compete, but go to class without any form of harassment or intimidation,” Lane said. “That will be our commitment to our student-athletes.”

The Daily Egyptian repeatedly reached out to Jarnigan for comment. She directed all questions to her attorney. The Daily Egyptian did not hear back from Jarnigan’s attorney prior to publication.

“[Jarnigan] knew about these reports and she did not do anything,” Athlete 1 said. “She never talked to Geoff [Hanson] about fixing this situation.” 

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Athlete 2 said seven swimmers have quit at SIU due to Hanson’s abuse. Athlete 2 said Hanson disregarded athletes’ mental health with excessive training hours and repeatedly threatened to take away scholarships if athletes did not comply with his training requests. 

“He frightened me to the point where I would not be able to sleep before I went to practice,” Athlete 2 said. “I was so anxious about showing up to practice and feeling like he doesn’t even care if I’m there or not. I always felt like he didn’t even want some of us there.”

The Daily Egyptian reached out to Hanson multiple times for comment and did not receive a response. 

Athlete 1 said they brought these abuse claims to the assistant swim coaches and said Hanson told them to not report the claims to the administration. 

“They just know that he’s going to use everything in his power to get his way and if they stand in his way, then they’re going to go down,” Athlete 1 said. 

Sports editor Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @ryanscott134

Editor in Chief Oreoluwa Ojewuyi can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @odojewuyi

Graduate contributor Nick Karpinski can be reached at [email protected] His Twitter handle is @nick___karp and his work can be found at nickkarpinski.com.

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