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Former UK cheerleader defends fired coach JoMo Thompson’s leadership, discipline and more

Kentucky cheerleading got rocked Monday when four coaches were fired and an advisor resigned. (Jeff Houchin Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky’s championship cheerleading program got rocked Monday when a three-month investigation following a complaint from a cheerleader’s mother led to all four coaches being fired and the advisor resigning after it was determined there was inappropriate conduct by members of the cheerleading squad included hazing activities, alcohol use and public nudity.

UK president Dr. Eli Capilouto said the coaches and advisor did not “meet the standards of integrity” expected at UK.

I’ve been lucky enough to write stories about several national championship cheerleaders as well as several who went to the recent Winter Olympics for a cheerleading demonstration. I reached out to one of them for her reaction to Monday’s news, especially after I saw so many former UK cheerleaders defending coach JoMo Thompson and his staff after they were all fired.

“We have always been treated with respect in and out of the program. It has always been very strict to say the least and expected nothing but excellence. That being said, we were college students and if we did partake in anything that was not condoned. We were punished or banned from the program until we could get our life back on track. This included grades, tardiness, etc,” she said.

“Partying, you get it. But JoMo and the staff never encouraged any type of behavior and kept close contact with our families, too.”

This cheerleader’s mother was frustrated by the allegations as well based on the experience her daughter had at UK.

I wondered why the complaint was not filed until February if the incidents occurred last summer. The former cheerleader say sometimes a team member is not asked to come back to the program or just not try out like all cheerleaders do each year even though any cheer member can always opt to still try out.

But what about the annual Lake Cumberland retreat where the investigation alleged there was drinking and both bottomless and topless stunts into the water by male/female cheerleaders?

“As far as the lake goes, the baskets (throwing a cheerleader into the water) were never mandatory and never topless. I’m not saying there wasn’t drinking because we have a mix of team members who are of drinking age all the time. But nothing was ever in front of coaches and if caught, actions were obviously taken,” she said.

The investigation that included interviews with numerous cheerleaders indicated the coaches saw what was happening or at least knew. However, the former cheerleader told me the retreat was about much more than just lake time.

“There was maybe a day of lake time out of the four days there. It’s a lot of team bonding, set activities, and everyone gets up in front of everyone and says goals, highs and lows about their life and you really learn about how others operate,” she said. “If someone has a death in the family and might blow up at you during practice, we know there are underlying issues. The lake was a small portion on what actually is being taught during that time. It’s very eye opening about your team.”

She also defended Thompson’s leadership.

“JoMo is really nice but extremely quiet! He never yelled, never spoke out of line, just a good all-around guy,” she said. “It’s definitely frustrating to see! I hate it for the people just trying out for the first time. But there is a reason that some people are not invited back and if you don’t possess all the qualities outside of talent, then you don’t represent the university.

“I promise any alumni you ask will proudly tell you the same with all of this craziness.”

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  1. I found it interesting that the cheerleader (I am sure it was the one who complained.) and the person backing up the claims had legal representation. That tells me, and I may be wrong, that someone is wanting to sue the university.

    The one good thing that should come out of this is that the cheerleading athletes will be moved to the Athletics Department. They should have been there all along.

  2. One person might have caused suspicion, but they evidently found a lot of evidence to support the complaint or it would not have ended this way.
    When the person resigned as soon as they heard about the investigation, that goes a long way in making you believe this person knew it was not going to end well.

    1. They can try and sugar coat this all they want, but the facts have been investigated by Provost Blackwell since Feb, as was presented. Barnhart would not have suddenly fired the whole coaching staff if this had not been closely verified, would he? If so, there will be suits coming for sure. There were people there at Lake Cumberland with boats and alcohol that were not on the team, just former alumni. I first of all want to thank the young ladies who exposed this vulgar behavior. I sure would not want my little cheerleader daughter or granddaughter exposed to that sort of trash while at UK, or any other school, and I don’t care how good or how nice the coach, or coaches are. Where there is smoke there is usually fire. Yeah, the University is probably ripe for a suit I would say.

      1. Barnhart had to do the politically correct thing. College students are adults from last i checked. Maybe they could take some responsibility every once in a while? Be better and you wouldnt be booted and have to cry sour grapes.

  3. There is so much conflicting information. Someone will obtain the who story via open records and investigative reporting. Eventually the whole truth will come out, it is just a matter of time.

    1. Ben I agree with you the more you hear or read I don’t think all the facts has been level out.

  4. The smear of excellence. All the cheerleaders are drunks and perverts…..blah blah blah. If anyone thinks you can do what they do practicing and conditioning 7 days a week with hangovers then i have some swamp land to sell you. How about you go and drug test the marching band and look into their behaviors? This is nothing but a shakedown and a nothing story. It is a shame what a jilted anything can do to good people. How about you be an adult and keep your mama out of it!

    1. Hey truthit, go cry to the Provost. If UK is wrong some of us will say it. The facts are pretty easy to understand. This is not about the band, it is about underage drinking and nudity with UK’s Cheerleading squad at lake Cumberland. I don’t care who made or didn’t make the squad, or who feels jilted? UK Big Blue faithful sure don’t mind jumping on Louisville, or UNC for bad press, and this is bad press for UK. Did you investigate this for three months like Blackwell did? Nobody in there right mind can condone this sort of behavior hoss. If you ever raised a girl you would understand that.

      1. I will vehemently disagree with one of your statements. You said: “This is not about the band, it is about underage drinking and nudity with UK’s Cheerleading squad at lake Cumberland.”

        It is not about the Cheerleading squad. It is about a few of the folks who were members of the cheerleading squad.

        1. OK, your right to disagree is ok by me, but Ramsey’s article simply said “inappropriate conduct by members of the “Cheerleading squad.” That would be UK’s Cheerleading Squad. I don’t know who was involved and who was not, do you? Were you there lakeside? Perhaps there were some who did not partake. I surely hope so!! That said, this has sure hurt the program and the University some too since this is national news now, and on the internet. You can surely acknowledge that. Obviously the two girls who blew the whistle were apparently not involved, but who knows for sure. Four coaches got fired I know that. Sounds like to me you are splitting hairs here. I am addressing this in the general way this sad news was presented here on Vaught’s Views. No actual names of the Cheerleaders were ever mentioned, were they? But it does involve the “Cheerleading squad, that fact is not up for debate.

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