Lawyers investigating allegations that Idaho women’s volleyball head coach Chris Gonzalez routinely physically, verbally and emotionally abused players and that athletic director Terry Gawlik ignored or failed to follow up to these allegations expect to complete their final interviews by Friday, according to emails obtained by the Southern California News Group.
Attorneys from Thompson & Horton, the Texas-based law firm hired by the university to lead the investigation, interviewed 37 people and also “reviewed information provided by players, coaches, other members of the athletic staff and administrators,” according to an email to Idaho Players from Holly G. McIntush, one of the attorneys leading the investigation.
McIntush said in the email that the attorneys have at least four other interviews scheduled and are also “still waiting to hear back from a few other potential witnesses.” Thompson & Horton will also conduct follow-up interviews this week with individuals who have filed specific complaints, according to interviews with current and former Idaho players and emails. McIntush has asked at least four current players to make themselves available for two- to three-hour follow-up interviews this week, according to interviews and emails.
“We hope to complete the fact-gathering portion of the investigation next week and begin preparation of our report thereafter,” McIntush wrote in an email.
Former and current players said they had not been informed by attorneys or university officials when a report on the investigation might be completed or if a report would be shared with them.
McIntush, according to the Thompson & Horton website, “regularly assists clients in developing legally compliant civil rights policies and procedures, advises them in conducting investigations and hearings under those policies, and defends them if they file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Another Thompson & Horton partner, Jackie Gharapour Wernz, is serving as interim director of the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigations.
McIntush did not respond to a request for comment. Gonzalez and a university spokesperson also did not respond to a request for comment.
Gonzalez, a Southern California native and former U.S. national team coach, continues to train in the spring while being supervised by an employee in the dean of students’ office. Of the 12 players on the Vandals’ spring team, only five athletes, all from foreign countries, trained with Gonzalez. The six U.S.-based players opted out of training, citing physical safety and emotional health concerns related to interacting with Gonzalez. A 12th player, a Turkish athlete, was unable to train due to injury.
Thompson & Horton’s investigation was prompted by a 9,000-word SCNG report released Dec. 30 in which current and former players and university employees alleged that Gonzalez routinely bullied and mistreated players during of his two seasons at the Big Sky Conference school and that As of October 2022, Gawlik has ignored or dismissed the concerns of athletes, parents and employees.
The article and the reaction from Gawlik and the university led to a growing outcry among Idaho players, past and present, alumni and student body that Idaho President C. Scott Green, fired Gawlik as well as Gonzalez. Gawlik and university officials, in their original response to the SCNG’s initial report, described the controversy as being based on complaints filed during the 2023 season that Idaho players had sought from the university to suspend any investigation until the end of this season.
But documents and interviews reveal that Gawlik took little, if any, effective action following a series of detailed complaints against Gonzalez filed by players and parents, both in writing and in person, between October and December 2022. Gawlik’s inaction or indifference allegedly allowed Gonzalez to continue to physically, verbally and emotionally abuse, body shame and pressure players to play or practice injured or touch incorrectly players for another year, 13 current and former players, nine parents and three university employees say in interviews and emails to university officials.
Among those complaints filed in 2022 with Gawlik were emails, memos, letters and in-person statements detailing that Gonzalez allegedly physically, emotionally and verbally abused players, denied them food, regularly shamed them, committed inappropriate touching and comments, allegedly ignored instructions from the school’s sports medicine staff that athletes were not playing or training due to injuries, and made racially insensitive remarks to a black player, according to interviews and documents obtained by the SCNG.
Gawlik’s contract expires July 21, and several players, university employees and prominent alumni have speculated that the university will allow him to retire at the end of the school year instead of ‘be fired. Gawlik did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“These are cries for help; » Players claim Idaho women’s volleyball coach Chris Gonzalez routinely bullied them
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