LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville senior associate athletic director for media relations Kenny Klein took the unusual step of addressing a newspaper story from last weekend before Monday's scheduled Charlie Strong football news conference.
Klein took issue with several points made in a Sunday Courier-Journal story about lacrosse coach Kellie Young, in which six current or former players and their parents complained of multiple instances of verbal abuse and at least one incident in which injured players were alleged to have been instructed to do 250 pushups in an airport. The father of a current player, Kelsey Garraty, said his daughter was kicked off the team and left in Syracuse after a road loss, and that he had to drive her to the team's next game, in Connecticut, where she was eventually reinstated.
Klein said he wanted to address several things reported in the story, including its assertion that "players said by their count more than 20 Cardinals have either quit or been kicked off the team over the past three seasons."
Klein said the actual number of players to leave the program during that time is 12, including one that left and then came back.
"One left for a specific academic problem, five quit and stayed at U of L, and one left for personal reasons," Klein said. "Our coach said (that number) was about normal. For squads about that size, our baseball team lost 10 people in a three-year period, and men's soccer lost 13 in a three-year period."
Klein also disputed the notion that making a player with a knee or leg injury do push-ups is cruel or extreme. He argued that a push-up is an upper-body exercise, and that players with leg injuries do them often, with a provision made for protecting the injured leg. He denied the allegation that several injured players -- two with ligament injuries and one with a stress fracture -- were asked to do 250 of them in an airport terminal, though not that players was asked to do them in an airport. Klein did deny that a player was asked to sign a contract not to speak to a teammate. The story reported that former player Brooke Campbell was asked to sign a contract that included a provision not to speak to a friend who eventually quit the team.
"There's reasons why some of these players were disciplined, but we can't talk about that, nor would we," Klein said. "There was no contract, I know first-hand that there was no contract that those two players could not speak to each other. I don't know to what extent that was verified, and (Young) also vehemently denied some of the name-calling that was put in there. . . . I'm not attacking the reporter. He's doing his job, going about his reporting. But there are things in there that I think are just wrong."
U of L has acknowledged that the report of Young leaving Garraty behind after a halftime confrontation in a road loss at Syracuse was troubling, and not in keeping with school policy, but noted that the player in question remains with the team. U of L also acknowledges that U of L athletic director Tom Jurich met with Young last spring to discuss the language she uses with players.
The newspaper obtained a voicemail from Young to Darby Dudley, who was a midfielder for the lacrosse team at the time, berating her for wearing a Michigan State shirt on campus.
Klein said he wasn't the person to address questions of overall culture within the lacrosse program, but that he wanted to correct what he felt were two erroneous assertions of fact within the story, namely the number of players to leave the program and the allegation that players were asked to sign a contract not to speak to each other. He also felt that reaction to players with leg injuries doing push-ups has been harsh.
"We're getting killed on pushups and I don't know if people understand what that is," he said.
Klein said that while the story noted that university staff was present at many of the interviews with the newspaper, it was there at the paper's invitation.
"There's an implication of, 'Did Kenny make them say some of those things?'" Klein said. "I just tell our people to tell the truth and it won't get you in trouble. . . . (Young) said in the interview that (the culture) was tough to start with. And she said that her team right now, she feels, is in a very good place."
Klein said that, in the university's view, there is no next step to take, that the issues raised in the story have been addressed, and that nothing was brought to light that would necessitate the university revisiting the matter. To the larger question of how coaches should treat student athletes, Klein said he was not prepared to speak for the university in that discussion.
The lacrosse program was one supervised by former associate athletic director Julie Hermann, who after a controversy-filled process was named AD at Rutgers in the offseason. Hermann faced allegations of player abuse before eventually being named at Rutgers. Several U of L sources expressed frustration that the newspaper had been pursuing the story for months, but waited until the week that Hermann's Rutgers program was coming to U of L for a nationally televised football game to proceed with its story.
Klein wouldn't discuss that subject.
"I don't think there's a lot of people at this university that want to discuss that story right now, because there's feelings that this story was not . . . I don't want to get into opinions right now," he said.
Former players and some around the community have come out both in support of Young and to echo the criticisms and concerns raised in the story. A handful of former players wrote WDRB in support of the coach on Monday, including Bergan Foley, who came to U of L in Young's first recruiting class and played for four seasons.
"To say coach Young had her hands full would be an understatement," Foley wrote to media outlets in Louisville. "Many mistakes were made along the way, both on and off the lax field. Kellie was intense, tough, demanding and had high standards. She and I did not see eye to eye on everything; however I was able to voice my opinion whenever and always felt comfortable doing so. There were repercussions for bad behavior on and off the field and those who couldn't cut it left, just like at any other Division 1 program. At no time during my four years at U of L did I ever feel Coach Young was abusive in any way to me or my teammates."
Shayna Stears Bolton also spent four years at U of L, and agreed that Young was a tough coach, but said she was understanding where her injury was concerned.
"At the beginning of my senior year I remember walking into Kellie's office after my doctor's visit, where I had just been told that my lacrosse days were over," she wrote. "I just started crying when I saw her. But she looked at me, with tears in her eyes, and said 'it isn't worth it if you can't one day be able to run around and play with your own children.' That's when it was confirmed that Kellie cared about me, and everyone else on the team, and who we would become outside of the lacrosse world. These rules and consequences were to only make us the best women we could be."