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‘I told them’: How multiple systems failed when Toledo coach’s alleged sexual misconduct was reported | Women’s football

The Universty of Toledo knew in 2015 about an allegation of sexual misconduct by Brad Evans, coach of its women’s soccer team, but sidelined the claims to allow the coach to eventually resign citing “inappropriate relationships”. The university was also aware of concerns raised by players and families about his behavior since 2012.

The university took five years to acknowledge the sexual misconduct allegation – only after the current coach of the University of Toledo women’s team filed a report to the school’s Title IX office in 2020. The reported victim of the alleged sexual misconduct was Candice Fabry, a former student, athlete and assistant coach at the university, as exclusively reported by the Guardian.

In a 2020 letter to Fabry informing her of the 2020 report, the university’s Director of Title IX and Compliance Vicky Kulicke wrote: “The Title IX office is aware that this was reported also to the University of Toledo’s Human Resources in 2015 and addressed at that time.” The 2020 report was made to the university by the women’s soccer team’s current coach Thomas Buchholz-Clarke, who succeeded Brad Evans after his 2015 resignation.

The reported allegation was against Evans, head coach of the women’s soccer program at the University of Toledo from 2001 to 2015. Evans’ 13-season reign at Toledo saw the team bring home four Mid-American Conference tournament titles in the NCAA’s top-flight Division I.

As the Guardian has exclusively reported, that success came at a high price for some former players and staff. The true story behind Evans’ sudden resignation from the University of Toledo women’s soccer program in 2015 was never fully explained while the coach pursued a successful career elsewhere after quietly leaving the Toledo program.

Over a three-month period the Guardian has spoken with former players, coaches, University of Toledo staff, and families of former University of Toledo students, to be able to reveal for the first time allegations of sexual assault and sexual coercion, a hostile environment for players, how the university managed reports about his behavior, and how a lack of transparency by the university allowed Evans to still hold prominent positions within the sport in the US with little accountability.

On Wednesday, following the Guardian’s report of Evans’ alleged sexual misconduct, the United States Soccer Federation suspended his coaching license.

The 2020 Kulicke letter sent to Fabry acknowledges that the University of Toledo knew about allegations of sexual misconduct in 2015 but did not adequately address them at the time. Instead of pursuing the sexual misconduct claim, the university investigated Evans for “verbal harassment” following an allegation from an undisclosed source. Still, the university stopped short of disciplinary action against Evans when he abruptly resigned for what he described as “inappropriate relationships”.

In an emailed statement to The Guardian, the University said:

UToledo did conduct an investigation following a report by a student-athlete in January 2015 of verbal harassment by Brad Evans, who was at the time the Head Coach of the women’s soccer team. The investigation did find that Mr. Evans’ conduct toward student-athletes may have violated the University’s Standards of Conduct policy, however, the case was not referred for possible disciplinary action because by the conclusion of the investigation in March 2015, Mr. Evans had already resigned his position effective Feb. 23, 2015.

In a follow-up email to the Guardian, the university did not respond to specific questions about previous allegations made by athletes and families and said there were “no additional reports” relating to alleged misconduct by Evans.

“I was contacted by Human Resources and met with an investigator and a university lawyer,” recalls Marley Merritt*, a former University of Toledo staff member who said she felt pressured into entering a sexual relationship with Evans, about the 2015 investigation into Evans alleged misconduct.

“I remember leaving the interview and thinking they never got the full story. They never asked the right questions. I felt they just checked the box to say that they did an interview. I went back to them and requested a second meeting. I had more information to tell them. They just weren’t asking. At the second meeting there was just an investigator. I had dates and exact details and was ready to talk about it but they never asked specific questions.”

The 2015 investigation was not the first time the university had received reports about the behavior of Brad Evans, either. In late 2012, after four years on the University of Toledo’s soccer team, Rachael Kravitz and her younger sister Heather – who was also briefly part of the soccer program – called a meeting with university administration. The two women were accompanied by their parents, Roger and Cindy, and presented years of documented notes detailing what they described as “abusive behavior” within the University of Toledo women’s soccer program.

“I realized I don’t have the love for soccer that I used to have,” Rachael Kravitz, who graduated in 2013, says today. “I tried to play soccer after my college career and I lasted maybe an indoor season. I was still mad at it. Toledo was disgusting to me. I can’t wear a Toledo soccer shirt. When my husband wears Toledo stuff, I’m like uggghhh. I have no interest in doing any alumni-related activities. I have other things in my life right now.”

During her time at the university, Kravitz kept a notebook detailing meetings with soccer program staff, comments made to her and other players at training sessions, and incidents that occurred at training and games. Her parents did the same. They are careful to note that there was no one specific dramatic incident they identify as a red flag. Instead, they have a catalog of long-standing behavior resulting in an oppressive and toxic environment.

“The behaviors allowed other people think it was OK to treat people in a certain way,” Rachael Kravitz says. “A couple of people mentioned to me that he would say things about my breasts. He didn’t say it in front of me but it eventually got back to me.”

According to a former University of Toledo player under Evans who also worked as an assistant coach on the program after graduation, the longtime coach set what he considered to be “high standards” for the team.

“He was strong on ‘team first’,” says Jennifer Whipple, a starting goalkeeper for Toledo from 2003 to 2006 before spending three years as an assistant coach with the team.

“In meetings there was yelling, people were made to cry, players were [considered] selfish or weren’t good teammates,” Whipple tells the Guardian. “These were stories I heard often from teammates and that I witnessed as a coach. As a player this never happened to me, though. [Brad] seemed to like drama. He even told me after the 2008 season that he needed to create some tension so people didn’t get too comfortable. He said he couldn’t stand things being calm for long.”

“He called in two players who he wondered if they were in a romantic relationship,” Whipple adds. “When they came in they looked confused and he said ‘I heard that this is going on’. There was always this idea that you were being watched by someone.”

The Kravitz family meeting in November 2012 included Dr Kay Patten-Wallace, the University of Toledo’s senior vice-president of student affairs, and Kelly Andrews, the senior associate athletic director. Rachael, Heather and her parents brought documentation to the office of Patten-Wallace and described events that had taken place within the program that they were concerned about. Roger Kravitz recalls Kelly Andrews countering that the university had received glowing reports of Brad Evans.

“I can show you a box full of them,” Roger Kravitz recalls Andrews saying. “Why are your kids still here? Why don’t they leave if it is that bad?”

Cindy responded: “Because they have done nothing wrong”.

“I walked away from the meeting thinking nothing is going to happen from this,” recalls Roger Kravitz.

Cindy tried to be optimistic: “We thought that if we can help just one other person from being abused then it will be worth it. We hoped something would trigger change but we didn’t expect it.”

An assistant coach – speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity for fear of personal and professional repercussions – recalls meeting Kelly Andrews in 2014 and detailing a list of observations about Evans’ behavior and the team environment.

I said ‘You are sitting on a timebomb’,” the assistant coach recalls. “That is when she said to me [that she has] all these letters from all these parents and players saying what a wonderful experience they had with the University of Toledo soccer program under Brad.”

A year later, in 2015, Brad Evans resigned from his 14-season stint leading the University of Toledo women’s soccer program. In a statement to the Guardian, Evans said:

In 2015 I was asked to answer questions about my relationships with some past co-workers. It was clear that my interactions with those co-workers demonstrated poor judgment on my part, and were against university policy, and resigning was best for all involved.

With the help of counseling, I have learned a lot about the causes of my behavior. I am extremely lucky to have the support of my wife in this process. Together, I continue to learn to become a better person.

I am deeply sorry to have disappointed so many individuals, but I continue to work on making a positive future.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my perspective.

“I was there when he informed the team,” recalls Marley Merritt, a former member of the university staff. “The team was not expecting it. It was a surprise. Kelly Andrews and the assistant coaches [were there]. It was right before a practice. Brad Evans walked in, was able to tell the team and control the narrative that he resigned because of inappropriate relationships. It was ridiculous. It gave him all the power.”

Recalls an assistant coach: “We were happy that he was going to be out of coaching because [a news story] said he was going to go work for his mom.” The Toledo Blade also reported claims by Evans he was not forced out and was ending his coaching career. Evans, however, was not done. Soon, he would return to coaching with Ohio Youth Soccer Association North and a top local youth club.

In 2017, the Ohio Youth Soccer Association North, Evans’s latest employer (Ohio North and Ohio South merged in 2020 to create the Ohio Soccer Association), received a copy of a report sent to the University of Toledo in 2015 by Candice Fabry. The report alleged she had been sexually assaulted by Evans in 2007. At the time of the 2007 alleged assault, Fabry was in transition from student-athlete at the University of Toledo to an assistant coach with the women’s soccer program led by Evans.

Prior to the Ohio Youth Soccer Association North receiving the Toledo report, Fabry had detailed her experience to the association’s president Paul Emhoff and executive director Jen Fickett. Emhoff’s reaction, according to Fabry, was that “Brad seems like such a nice guy” and that an “article said he resigned from Toledo for an inappropriate relationship”.

In 2020, Ohio North and South soccer associations merged to become the Ohio Soccer Association. Under the new administration Brad Evans became head of coaching education and head coach for the state’s Olympic Development Program, positions he still holds. Jen Fickett is now the Ohio Soccer Association’s Safe Soccer Director. Ohio Soccer Association did not respond to multiple requests for comment on issues raised by the Guardian’s reporting.

In 2019, Candice Fabry reported her experiences to SafeSport, a non-profit organization that emerged from the 2017 Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017. The organization bills itself as having exclusive authority to investigate and resolve allegations of sexual misconduct in Olympic and Paralympic sport. After two telephone conversations with representatives from SafeSport, Fabry never heard from the organization again.

The common pattern in this story, besides the allegations against Evans from multiple individuals? Multiple reports were made to organizations and institutions responsible for the welfare and protecting athletes. Yet the reports were either not considered, not investigated, or received no response.

“It’s supposed to be the best years of your life,” says Cindy Kravitz, the mother of Rachael and Heather, soccer players who reported their concerns to the university. “What was mind-boggling to us was how the team was winning. They were broken and beaten. Knowing some of the stuff going on behind the scenes, how could they even get out of bed in the morning?

Adds father Roger Kravitz: “At what point is your child at risk for hurting herself? That was always at the back of our minds.”

Three words perhaps sum up the experience of Candice Fabry. She pauses and smiles before saying them. It’s not, however, a happy smile. It’s a smile of someone who is tired – yet persistent.

“I told them,” says Fabry.

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