Penn State Athletics confirmed the resignation of Rachelle Thompson, the women’s gymnastics team’s associate head coach.
Her resignation follows reports of abuse by former players, parents and an assistant coach, who told PennLive that “both Thompsons used bullying tactics and fostered a hostile environment.”
The other Thompson, her husband Jeff Thompson, is the head coach of the team and will remain in the position, according to a Penn State Athletics statement.
“We have accepted Rachelle Thompson’s resignation and thank her for her commitment to Penn State, our women’s gymnastics program and her many contributions as associate head coach,” the statement said. “We wish her all the best as she begins her next chapter. The program has a solid foundation for future success and we look forward to continuing to build upon it with head coach Jeff Thompson and his staff. A national search for her replacement will begin immediately.”
She was a coach for the program for six seasons.
“(Rachelle) Thompson was an integral part of the 2014 squad placing second at the NCAA Regional Championships and earning a berth at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2009,” hergopsusports.com profile said. “Her efforts helped guide the Nittany Lions to the first 20-win regular season in school history and a third place finish in the Big Ten regular season standings.”
An online petition posted Monday called for an investigation into the program and Penn State Athletics. The petition reached its goal of 1,000 online signatures Friday.
Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour told the Centre Daily Times in early May that the alleged abuse was “disturbing” to the coaches in question.
The coaches Barbour referred to include women’s hockey coach Josh Brandwene. Penn State Athletics submitted a review of the allegations to the university’s Office of Ethics and Compliance that came after the program’s annual postseason evaluation was completed.
“The postseason evaluations are done as the seasons finish up depending on certain situations in the program or availability of coaches, players and support staff,” Barbour said. “Based on some student-athletes’ concerns, there’s a review that has been turned over to our ethics and compliance office that is not completed yet.”
Barbour was not pleased with how both situations played out in the media. She said that players coming out and talking publicly sheds light on the issues at hand, “with the hopes of a certain outcome.”
But Barbour wishes the concerns were handled internally, and said public conversation will not impact how the athletic department handles the situations “one iota.”
“That we have concerns in two programs, and that we have student-athletes who feel their experience has been less than satisfying to say the least is very concerning to me,” Barbour noted. “But playing it out in public is frankly unfortunate.”