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Details of the hazing, alcohol, and nudity in UK Cheerleading investigation

This morning, the University of Kentucky dismissed the entire coaching staff of its championship cheerleading program following a three-month investigation into hazing activities, alcohol use and public nudity during off-campus events. UK released the report of the investigation by the Office of Student Conduct and Office of Institution Equity and Equal Opportunity, which found that Head Coach Jomo Thompson, Assistant Coaches Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix, and longtime program advisor T. Lynn Williamson failed to provide reasonable oversight during these events, which put team members at risk.

You can read all of it on UK’s website. Here are the biggest takeaways.

The phone call that started the investigation

In February, a family member of a UK cheerleader contacted a faculty member to raise concerns. Here’s the written report of that phone call:

“I received a call from XXXXXXX regarding the cheerleading team. She informed me that the squad was on a boat, drinking was involved, and the cheerleaders were encouraged to go topless. She also said during the retreat in [Tennessee], the cheerleaders were required to stand up on a table and sing a song that had major sexual content. After they sang it once, they were encouraged to sing it again with their clothes off. She said both [the cheerleading advisor] T. Lynn [Williamson] and the head coach, [Jomo Thompson] were there. She said that a previous assistant coach, Debbie [Love] videotaped this as one point but was forced to remove the video from her phone.”

The UK Cheerleading Strip Chant

The report says a sexually explicit chant created by UK Cheerleaders in the late 1970s became the focal point of an initiation activity that most recently took place at the 2019 Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) Camp at East Tennessee State. New members of the cheerleading team were required to learn the chant and sing it one at a time in front of older members in rooms split by sex. Initially, there was an allegation that female members were required to remove a piece of clothing and/or do the chant while topless, but no team members corroborated it; male team members were told to wear outfits without underwear and to remove a piece of clothing if they got part of the chant wrong. Those items of clothing included shoes or socks, but no team members corroborated that they had to remove their shorts or pants. UK Cheerleading’s coaches and advisors, who are all former members of the team, deny knowing about this initiation activity or being present during it.

Even though alcohol was forbidden at the UCA Camp, team members snuck it in, of which Thompson admitted he was aware.

Former UK Cheerleading coach Jomo Thompson

Topless/Bottomless basket-tosses at Lake Cumberland retreat

Every year, UK Cheerleading holds a retreat on Lake Cumberland. Even though this is a non-alcohol University sponsored event, team members admitted to sneaking booze in and secretly drinking it in their cabins or in Gatorade bottles at team functions. UK Cheerleading alumni would also attend the retreats and bring their boats for team members to use for water skiing and tubing. The boats were stocked with booze, although Thompson said he told all cheerleaders they were not allowed to drink on the boats, even if they were of legal drinking age. The alcohol was not confiscated.

Among the activities that took place were topless (female) or bottomless (male) basket-toss stunts into the water. The tradition is for freshman cheerleaders, new cheerleaders, and anyone who could not safely do the basket-toss on land to have the experience of doing the basket-toss and landing in the water, but other cheerleaders participated as well.

During the investigation, it came to light that some team members voluntarily, or through peer pressure, did the basket-toss stunt either topless (females) or bottomless (males). Two team members stated in their interviews that they did a basket-toss while topless, 11 stated that they observed a topless or bottomless basket-toss during their time on the team, and seven individuals stated that although they had not done or seen one done they had heard about others engaging in topless or bottomless basket-tosses. There is no indication that the individuals engaging in this behavior found it to be unwanted or unwelcome.

Several team members said they believed the coaching staff was aware of the activity and typically watched from the dock or shore nearby. All coaches denied supervising the basket-tosses, with Thompson denying seeing nudity during any basket-tosses during his time as head coach. Coach Head said he was aware of the basket-tosses taking place, but denied seeing nudity. Coach Clan said he was aware of topless basket-tosses from his time as a cheerleader but didn’t believe anyone was forced to do it. Team members said Advisor Williamson was in the kitchen preparing meals during the basket-tosses but recalled seeing them happen in the past.

He was unable to give an exact date but stated that either during the 2017 or 2018 retreat, he recalled having seen a female cheerleader do a basket-toss while topless. He did not have his glasses on at the time as he had just walked down to the dock and was about to go swimming. At first, he was unsure what he was seeing, and it shocked him because he had never seen anything like this in his many years at the retreat. When he realized what the cheerleader had done, he left the dock area.

Skinny Dipping

One cheerleader claimed skinny dipping happened at the Lake Cumberland retreat, although no one admitted to actually doing it.

Some will go swimming at night – half mile walk – will be intoxicated and go down – I went my first year because of seniors telling me – normally the first night – skinny dip – post in group message “who wants to go skinny dipping” Don’t know if it occurred this year – was pushed back to second night because of weather – tired from running – first three years it did okay.

Cheerleaders worked for assistants and the advisor

Both Assistant Coach Head and Assistant Coach Clan owned and operated gyms and employed cheerleaders, which the report says could be seen as a conflict of interest. Advisor Williamson also paid cheerleaders and assistant coaches to do lawn care or other personal work for him at his home, a service he stated he paid $15 per hour for, and rounded up the hours.

No evidence of sexual assault or sexual misconduct

The report from UK’s Office of Institutional Equity and Equal Opportunity cited allegations of team members being touched in a sexual manner without consent and forced oral sex, but no one confirmed them, so they were concluded to be without merit.

These include that some team members were touched in a sexual manner without their consent, that male team members compared sizes of their genitalia, and that students were forced to engage in oral sex. There were no individuals who confirmed any of these allegations. With no information provided by any individual interviewed to suggest that these allegations occurred, Institutional Equity has concluded these allegations are without merit.

No NCAA violations

Also important to note: because cheerleading is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport, there will not be any NCAA violations stemming from this investigation.

To read the full report, click here.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

43 Comments for Details of the hazing, alcohol, and nudity in UK Cheerleading investigation



  1. Booher
    12:14 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Damn band camp is real



  2. dkcr96
    12:36 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Wow, can’t believe college kids do such things. Who’d have thought.



  3. Trinity45
    1:01 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    For those of you blowing this off, the key point is some of this was witnessed by the coaching staff and they did nothing, this was a school sponsored event, not a bunch of college gets getting together and doing dumb stuff on their own.



    • unbridled
      1:26 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      So what? Everything was obviously voluntary and they were having fun. It’s not an NCAA sanctioned sport. Much ado about nothing. College rugby club parties get pretty wild as well. Who cares?



    • bigblue98
      1:47 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      I guess it’s also ok at work just to take my clothes off and walk around naked if I voluntarily do that. I’m pretty sure I would get fired or anyone else would too unless they worked at a strip club. These were university sponsored events – the coaches were responsible for the actions when allegedly they saw something. It says something about the conduct when a person affiliated with the cheerleading program for forty years retired immediately when the investigation started. If the kids want to do that that’s fine as long as it’s not university sponsored, and coaches aren’t present. Coaches should be adults and act as such.



    • 4everUKBlue
      2:40 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      I agree with you bigblue, those blowing it off are likely from the same irresponsible mold as the coaching staff.



    • ClutchCargo
      2:50 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      “Obviously.” Um, no.



    • secrick
      3:54 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      So what, how old are the coaches. Having fun is no crime



    • unbridled
      10:46 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      Big blue your analogy is completely inaccurate. These retreats were held in secluded locations at Cumberland and Etsu. They were having fun. Nothing more. If you think the cheerleading squad doesn’t regularly see fellow members naked….you are clueless. What would they find about the basketball team or the football team with an extensive 3 month investigation?



    • notFromhere
      11:53 am May 19, 2020 Permalink

      No. The key point is that most of this was alleged to have been seen by the coaches and staff. Most of it was not corroborated as having been seen or supervised by the coaches and staff. The report says the head coach “knew” that alcohol had been present, but not when he knew, and it also stated that he had told them they were not allowed to drink alcohol, which was corroborated.

      Sounds like this is sour grapes from someone who didn’t make first team and the parent that couldn’t handle the shame of the failure. Some of the UK cheerleaders I’ve known were boy and girl scouts by comparison to this and would’ve jumped on the “I told you so” train IF this stuff really happened as indicated.

      Instead they’re pissed off that not ONCE were they contacted not asked about their first hand experiences



  4. Johnny C
    1:29 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    I knew I picked the wrong path in life smh



  5. unbridled
    1:33 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Outrage culture ruins everything.



  6. 1980EconCat
    1:35 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Dang. Sounds like college. UK Business & Economics 1980.



  7. UKinIN
    2:26 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    While we can all recognize that this behavior is “normal” for college students, it is not permitted within university sanctioned events. Anyone that doesn’t recognize the difference, and why UK had to take measures, is just an idiot with a keyboard. If someone’s 18 year old daughter is drinking and topless at a college party that’s one thing. When it’s a UK retreat with coaches present, observing, or participating, that’s totally different and opens UK up to lawsuits.



    • 4everUKBlue
      2:42 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      UKinIN I think you hit the nail on the head when you said idiot with a keyboard.



    • unbridled
      9:57 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      “University sanctioned” just means the university picked up the tab for them to go on a lake trip. Big deal. They’ve earned it. They were not in public. They were in private. None of the allegations are coming from a bystander. This was a team thing. Do you people really think members don’t see other members naked or exposed? What do you think the inner working of the basketball or football locker room would look like if we launched a 3 month investigation? Bottom line is someone felt slighted and capitalized on our ridiculous “outrage culture.”



  8. grammarpoliceUK
    2:33 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Well, guess I must have gone fishing there on the wrong weekend SMH



  9. UKGrad1965
    2:44 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Obviously, as a 1965 graduate of the University of Kentucky I am an “old fogy”. However, I am very disappointed in these actions taken by persons representing my University. I knew Lynn Williamson when in college; and up until now I had been very proud of the accomplishments of the cheer-leading squads as representatives of UK. These actions fall into the same class as fraternity and marching band initiation pranks and harassment that result in deaths and injuries to the initiates. Cheer-leading needs a new start at UK, beginning with administrators, coaches and participants. If these actions are examples of how all college students act these days, I’m glad that I and my sons are no longer in college,



  10. Lexingtonyn
    2:55 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Some of you young Einsteins saying it’s normal college behavior (both here and the initial KSR blog post) don’t seem to be familiar with the history and cause of past UK’s alcohol policies in the athletic dept beginning in the early 2000s. You may have even also forgotten a child was killed in 2018 walking to a football game by a college kid who had been drinking. You can waste your time with rants on here, but just know that when it comes to alcohol, Mitch don’t play. If the coaches were dumb enough to know this was going on and they didn’t confiscate the alcohol, they deserved to be fired for stupidity alone.



    • unbridled
      11:12 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      Be careful what you wish for. If ol Mitch decides to evenly apply that standard across all university sports…..we may not like that particular outcome. Let’s not be naive.



    • unbridled
      11:14 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      I was on campus for the Lexington area party plan. It was a travesty.



  11. Bruce Dickinson
    2:56 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    These coaches and students have embarrassed the university. I know kids will do things in college, but this is a bad look for the school.



  12. just a guy
    3:13 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    I get it, I get it. Coaches were there and knew it. Oh boy. When I was at UK one of good friends joined the cheerleading team. He had never even done a flip. He barely made the team and mostly cheered for girls teams and JV sports…. but he said every cheerleading event was a naked orgy. Said he’d only quit if he was forced to.
    All you sticks in the mud somehow someway believe college athletes are somehow held to a different standard. They should know better. Lol, they are held to different standards by being able to do shit like this and the school pay for it. I’m sure no drinking or nudity goes on at a football or basketball event either, and I’m sure none of the coaches have any idea. Louisville paid for hookers, UK cheerleaders got drunk and naked,



    • desertCard
      5:34 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      Hold the phone I’m gonna call the NCAA and tell them the UofL players were just having fun and to give back the NC



    • ClutchCargo
      5:52 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      That ship has sailed, desertCard. They’ve already moved on to investigating the next U-6 scandal.



    • unbridled
      10:50 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      Desert card, your comparison doesn’t work on any level. Swing and a miss.



    • Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
      1:04 pm May 19, 2020 Permalink

      I mean your lawsuit didn’t work, so why would this?



  13. catfan312
    3:26 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Sad, disgraceful and embarrassing for them and that’s mainly on the “adults” who should know better and act in a mature way. And all I read was he, he and he so sounds like a bunch of pervert men acting like a bunch of fools and letting this nonsense go on. Any of you idiots ok with your daughter being allowed to do these things around a bunch of men that are supposed to be coaches and mentors not a bunch of “girls gone wild” encouragers. Shame on them and you!!



    • secrick
      3:59 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      No one wants their daughter to do this but they all do . No big deal.



  14. Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert
    3:26 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    I made a joke about Katina Powell and it gets moderated. Pretty sensitive. Pretty sure if the shoe were on the other foot and this was another school, my comment would have been fine.



  15. secrick
    3:57 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Coaches like to have fun to. You old people need to calm down and go out and have some fun.



  16. gasman01
    4:15 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    ESPN will have a field day with this. They hate UK.



  17. Brutal Hustler
    4:20 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Oh my gosh I can’t believe they did this. Are there pictures? They better release the pictures so we all know exactly what not to do moving forward. I am IRATE



  18. bbn606
    4:23 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    The cheerleaders should be dismissed to. No one does such as that unless they want to.



  19. UKLugo
    4:28 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Deplorable. Sickening. Why I never…!!



  20. T-Town Cat
    5:02 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    Bottomless basket-toss stunts? Ouch. I would not want to be the catcher OR the tossee on that.



  21. desertCard
    5:54 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

    I played sports at UK and we never came close to doing anything like this. Kind of weird stuff really. Basket tosses? The rugby team was notorious and I went to many of their parties.



    • N-UR-i
      6:33 pm May 18, 2020 Permalink

      The rubic cube club isnt really a sport desertCard. Also, EKU and UK are different schools.



    • Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
      1:09 pm May 19, 2020 Permalink

      Louisville is a University in Kentucky, we’re talking about the University of Kentucky. Desertcard was the worst troll name ever to use to act like a Kentucky fan and bash them.



  22. notFromhere
    11:55 am May 19, 2020 Permalink

    Most of it was not corroborated as having been seen or supervised by the coaches and staff. The report says the head coach “knew” that alcohol had been present, but not when he knew, and it also stated that he had told them they were not allowed to drink alcohol, which was corroborated.

    Sounds like this is sour grapes from someone who didn’t make first team and the parent that couldn’t handle the shame of the failure. Some of the UK cheerleaders I’ve known were boy and girl scouts by comparison to this and would’ve jumped on the “I told you so” train IF this stuff really happened as indicated.

    Instead they’re pissed off that not ONCE were they contacted not asked about their first hand experiences

    This is an overreaction to a first time allegation against a staff and a coach that has given a lot to UK. Tired of the knee-jerk nature of the admin towards people being accused of things, but it seems to be endemic



  23. Shark
    12:25 pm May 19, 2020 Permalink

    Sad they were turned in from a parent mad that her daughter didnt make the squad. Im sure this isnt the only squad in America that does or did this.



  24. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    1:11 pm May 19, 2020 Permalink

    Barnhart’s just pissed they didn’t invite him.



    • satcheluk
      4:04 pm May 19, 2020 Permalink

      He’d blow his wad in two seconds.