‘Everyone knew their past’: How a coach stayed in football despite troubling accusations

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Lack of transparency and the failure of the University of Toledo and the US Center for SafeSport to complete the investigation into a sexual assault allegation against women’s soccer coach Brad Evans opened a door for him to continue coaching girls and young women , according to individuals with knowledge of how Evans was hired for subsequent jobs.

As previously revealed by the Guardian, Evans was allowed to resign in 2015 as the leader of a successful women’s football program at the University of Toledo. At the time, the dismissal called an “improper relationship” with a colleague, although the university was aware of concerns from players and families, including an allegation of sexual assault.

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The university ended the investigation into those complaints when he resigned, meaning accusations made by former employees have essentially disappeared. Evans has never been criminally charged over the allegations.

After leaving Toledo, Evans was then hired to senior positions with Ohio Youth Soccer Association North and Internationals Soccer Club, a regional youth soccer powerhouse near Cleveland, Ohio.

Keri Sarver, the Internationals Soccer Club’s coaching director, hired Evans for a coaching role with the team in 2020. She told the Guardian she was unaware of the allegations against him in Toledo. “I was aware that he had resigned from the University of Toledo because of an inappropriate relationship with a colleague and that’s all I know,” she said.

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“I was told it was a relationship with an adult colleague and from that perspective it was a personal matter between him and his wife and his family and his employer. At the time that was all I knew and that’s when it started and ended.”

Sarver is also currently an assistant coach with the New Zealand women’s team preparing for the Women’s World Cup in 2023. She has a long resume that includes work as a scout for the U.S. Soccer Federation’s national youth teams and as an assistant coach for the USWNT under-18 youth team.

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“We can only continue with what we knew at the time,” Sarver said. “We followed all the processes – a criminal background check – and there were no red flags. All the coaches we hire or who work with our teams are trained by SafeSport every year, so he ticked all those boxes. I acted on what I knew at the time to be true.”

Sarver’s pragmatic view, however, is not shared by some parents within the football community. After the Guardian revealed the allegations against Evans in July, a publicly available Facebook post underlined how the lack of transparency about Evans’ departure from the University of Toledo permeated the youth football community. “Brad was my daughter’s club coach for a few years. He made her so uncomfortable. She almost gave up football because of him. Many of her teammates did. We knew why he left the UT and could not understand why he was hired as a club coach,” the message reads.

Following his 2015 departure from the University of Toledo, Evans was recruited by Ohio Youth Soccer Association North to lead the Olympic development program. One person familiar with the recruitment process told the Guardian: “I am shocked to this day that that man was even allowed back into football”.

“There were things that weren’t done right in Ohio North that got him hired,” the person said, speaking on a condition of anonymity for fear of professional and personal repercussions within the American football community.

“Damn, yes, [his behavior] was well known then. They knew. Everyone on that board knew his past. It was basically, yeah, we know him, we like him, the stories aren’t true, that’s just students making up stories. They should be ashamed.”

The person added: “It was not a board consensus to hire him. There were some guys on the Ohio North board who were absolutely against it, but their vote didn’t matter.”

Tom Turner was the director of coaching for the Ohio Youth Soccer Association North at the time of Evans’ recruitment and is believed to be the driving force behind the hiring, according to multiple sources. Turner is currently listed as the Ohio Soccer Association’s director of membership growth and development. Turner did not respond to multiple requests from The Guardian for comment by email and phone.

Ohio Youth Soccer Association North became Ohio Soccer Association (OSA) in 2021. Evans continued to lead the Olympic Development Program and the state’s football coaching training programs until allegations of abuse by six women were revealed by the Guardian.

“We were not aware of the allegations and have no insight into the hiring practices of other companies or organizations,” OSA chief executive Gordon Henderson said in an email to The Guardian.

The OSA has since removed every mention of Evans from its website, claiming the allegations are now under the jurisdiction of the US Center for SafeSport. Henderson said Evans’ employment with the organization ended on July 29, 2022, a few weeks after the Guardian’s report was published.

“The University of Toledo knew… [about his behavior] and they made him resign and pretend it didn’t happen,” said Michelle Sandor, who played under Evans at Ashfield University in Ohio from 1996 to 2000.

Today, Sandor is a high school soccer coach and says she avoided attending coaching events that Evans would attend.

“[Toledo] put all those other women at risk,” Sandor said. “Then the Ohio Soccer Association hired him, knowing he had to resign because of his behavior. He’s not such a great coach that you can’t find anyone else. That you are going to hire someone who [allegedly] battered women instead of finding the next best coach? It’s terrible.”

The U.S. Center for SafeSport — an organization founded in 2017 to investigate and highlight issues related to sexual abuse and other misconduct in Olympic and Paralympic sports — also received a report on Evans’ behavior in 2019, but continued no investigation.

That report, by former University of Toledo assistant coach Candice Fabry, alleged a sexual assault by Evans previously reported to the university. Fabry’s report resulted in multiple email exchanges and two conversations with investigators, and Fabry was asked to gather information on behalf of SafeSport about other potential victims and forward any details to the organization. Although SafeSport was aware of an allegation against Evans, the agency did not investigate him at the time.

“SafeSport Knew It” [in 2019] what I reported to Toledo and how Toledo wasn’t telling the truth when he stepped down,” Fabry said. “That’s the most frustrating thing – my story wasn’t enough, I was always asked to go see if I can convince others to come forward to make an investigation really take place, and then two agencies that are able to investigate and serve the consequences – Toledo and SafeSport – nothing done. They knew he was out there and it was up to me to get enough people to come forward and do something.”

The Guardian has made multiple requests for comment to the US Center for SafeSport and through a public relations firm in Washington DC. After multiple text and email exchanges, the US Center for SafeSport has not provided any information or a spokesperson to the Guardian.

According to its website, “The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017 codified the US Center for SafeSport, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, as the nation’s safe sports organization.” The 2017 law empowers SafeSport to resolve reports of abuse and misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, including soccer. The center is funded by a $20 million annual contribution from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, part of which comes from sports governing bodies that pay fees — essentially a form of fine — based on the number of allegations reported to the center. .

A 2022 UKTN News investigation into the U.S. Center for SafeSport found that the “system has allowed alleged serial abusers to return to their sports with little to no public warning, affecting the confidence of some athletes and their advocates in the work.” of the center, which in turn threatens the center’s ability to function effectively.”

The US Center for SafeSport can ban and suspend individuals from participating in any sport under the USOPC umbrella. Those individuals are listed in the centralized disciplinary database. Although Evans was not sanctioned when the US Center for SafeSport first received a report of his alleged conduct in 2019, he was subsequently taken into custody on July 11, 2022, following the Guardian’s investigation.

“Can there be more support and more tools and more light to shine on these kinds of incidents?” said Sarver. “I think the answer is yes.”

The person familiar with how Evans was hired by Ohio Youth Soccer Association North in 2017 added: “I’m sorry for those girls [at Toledo]. I’m sorry a university let that happen, kept allowing that to happen, fired him, but Ohio North football said, ‘That’s okay. Come back to Ohio’.”

  • Brad Evans did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or email questions about specific allegations about his time at Toledo. He did, however, make a statement to the Guardian about his departure from the university.

    “In 2015, I was asked to answer questions about my relationships with some former colleagues. It was clear that my interactions with those colleagues showed poor judgment on my part and were against university policy, and resigning was best for everyone involved,” Evans wrote.

    “With the help of counseling I have learned a lot about the causes of my behaviour. I am extremely lucky to have my wife’s support in this process. Together I keep learning to become a better person. I am deeply sorry that I have disappointed so many people, but I will continue to work towards a positive future. Thanks for the opportunity to give my perspective.”

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