Queen’s University is defending the firing of a long-time track and field coach for publicly criticizing the University of Guelph and former student athletes in the wake of the controversy surrounding allegations against star coach Dave Scott-Thomas.
In a statement Thursday, Queen’s said Steve Boyd “made numerous statements on social media berating and blaming student athletes who were themselves victims and which only served to re-traumatize them.”
Mr. Boyd, who was dismissed Wednesday after coaching the Queen’s track team for a decade, was involved in a heated exchange on Facebook slightly more than a week ago with a group of former University of Guelph athletes, including Olympians and other prominent names in the sport.
In his posts, he also suggested that the school vacate its multiple national titles won with Mr. Scott-Thomas as coach.
Earlier this month, The Globe and Mail published an investigative report on Mr. Scott-Thomas, a former University of Guelph track coach who allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student athlete. Many former athletes say he subsequently created a toxic environment at the school.
Mr. Scott-Thomas’s lawyer has said that the allegations were unsubstantiated and inaccurate.
Shortly after Mr. Boyd’s Facebook comments, Jennie Biewald, a former Guelph student athlete, e-mailed the Queen’s athletics director to express her frustration, saying that Mr. Boyd’s posts were incendiary.
In the lengthy Facebook thread, Mr. Boyd compared Guelph athletes with prisoners of war, and said some were complicit for not blowing the whistle on Mr. Scott-Thomas’s alleged abusive behaviour. In fact, he said, some helped recruit athletes to the school.
“It was just the last straw, with all these people commenting about how bad and twisted everyone at Guelph is,” Ms. Biewald said of the public criticism alumni has faced in the aftermath of the Scott-Thomas controversy. Ms. Biewald spoke with The Globe for its investigative report earlier this month, where she detailed her own difficulties under Mr. Scott-Thomas.
“I was hoping and assumed Queen’s would have him take the posts down and issue an apology,” she said.
However, Ms. Biewald and other Guelph alumni who spoke with The Globe said that Mr. Boyd’s firing was unwarranted.
After he posted his Facebook comments, Mr. Boyd contends that he complied with Queen’s University’s demands that he no longer speak publicly about the issue. He says he was dismissed anyway.
The University of Guelph has faced intense scrutiny for being aware of Mr. Scott-Thomas’s alleged sexual relationship yet opting to do little to reprimand their star coach for more than 13 years. In that time, Guelph won numerous national championships and Mr. Scott-Thomas helped transform the school and community into a running mecca. Mr. Scott-Thomas was fired in December, 2019, after another student athlete filed a complaint against him.
Samantha Beattie, who ran for the University of Guelph until 2012, said Mr. Boyd’s comments were poorly timed. “This just shows what’s wrong at the elite coaching level,” Ms. Beattie said of the former coach’s comments. “People are in pain and once again a coach is not recognizing the pain athletes are in.”
“But I didn’t think he would be fired; my jaw dropped,” she said, adding that there is still a lack of transparency at the university level, and that must change.
Queen’s athlete Kara Blair said Mr. Boyd’s former athletes are upset about their school’s decision and will be lobbying to have it reversed. “We are trying to fight it by sending in letters and telling anyone else who wants to complain to do the same,” she said.
Brogan MacDougall, one of Canada’s top young distance runners and a current Queen’s student athlete, warned that the track program at the school could now be in danger of being defunded.
In a Facebook post, Ms. MacDougall had blunt words for her school’s administrators.
“Yesterday was a sad day for Queen’s University as they chose to believe the cancel-culture mob over upstanding members of the Queen’s community who excel in sport, in school and in community service,” she wrote.
She implored the university to have an “open conversation” about why Mr. Boyd was dismissed, in place of public-relations statements.
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