Penn State women’s gymnastics associate head coach Rachelle Thompson will resign following allegations from former gymnasts that she and her husband, head coach Jeff Thompson, created a hostile team environment by pressuring athletes to train through injuries and lose as much weight as possible and use of bullying tactics.
Rachelle Thompson’s resignation is effective June 30, according to athletic department spokesman Jeff Nelson. Jeff Thompson will remain as head coach.
The athletic department released a statement confirming her resignation.
“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. 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.”
The Daily Collegian initially reported on the complaints from former gymnasts at Penn State, where the Thompsons have coached since 2010, and one at Auburn where they previously coached for 11 years. One told the Collegian she had considered suicide after being demeaned by the Thompsons for not being able to train through an injury. Others said Rachelle Thompson publicly ridiculed their weight and that Jeff Thompson walked in on a locker room meeting and made comments about the gymnasts’ sex lives.
PennLive.com later reported that the entire team complained to a university administrator about the negative environment created by the Thompsons. A former gymnast said the Thompsons pressed her to answer questions about her boyfriend and screamed at her for slowing down during an injury. Others reported being ridiculed for their weight and being asked intrusive questions.
Former assistant coach Samantha Brown, who was terminated in January, said that administrators failed to address concerns brought forward by her and athletes.
All eight members of the 2012 freshman class have since left the team, which had no senior members in 2016.
Brown and former gymnasts created an online petition demanding an outside investigation of the program and the athletic department. The petition has gained more than 1,100 signatures since being posted last week.
A statement from the Penn State athletic to the Collegian at the time of the initial report said, “We are driven first and foremost by the welfare of our student-athletes and thoroughly consider and review any issue brought to our attention through well-established, confidential processes. The Intercollegiate Athletics staff is dedicated to providing the resources necessary to create conditions for success to balance the rigors of high expectations in the classroom and in competition.”
“There are varied opportunities for feedback, all of which are given the attention they deserve,” the statement continued. “In any medical situation, student-athlete practice and competition participation decisions are made by medical professionals after consultation with all necessary parties.”