Eastern Kentucky University Director of Athletics Matt Roan released compliance report results on Friday, Aug. 21 after former football player Landon White made allegations that player safety was at risk.
In the report, on Aug. 4 White resigned from the football team due to COVID-19 concerns and stated that the football staff failed to adhere to CDC, state and local guidelines related to the management of the COVID-19 virus, thereby creating an unsafe environment for student athletes.
Around the same time White made these allegations, the University received an anonymous online report via the University’s compliance helpline regarding the social media post, which also expressed concerns regarding compliance with health guidelines.
Roan said that on Aug. 5, EKU Athletics requested a compliance review independent from the athletics department.
Roan said that human resources (HR) selected 20 individuals associated with the football program for an interview. Those individuals included nine players, seven staff members, two volunteer coaches, one student employee and head coach Walt Wells.
“With interviews being concluded, the information supports that there have been at least some compliance related issues within the football program. However, the information also supports that those issues have been generally resolved and that there are protocols in place to encourage future reporting,” Roan said during a press conference to selected media on Friday, Aug. 21.
The report also states that there were failures by some staff to consistently wear masks.
“The decision to have an initial team meeting with the majority of players in the same room at the beginning of football camp was supported by EKU Public Safety and in line with local, state and federal guidance at the time the meeting was conducted as long as social distancing and masking was still maintained,” the report said.
But Roan and Wells realized that large team meetings made compliance with distancing and masking requirements difficult. Wells then made the decision to break up the meeting groups into small sizes.
“There were errors that were corroborated, but it’s important for me that, to move forward, the information does not support that the staff within the football program have intentionally avoided the protocols or have failed to respond to the safety issues,” Roan said.
According to the report, “the available information supports that Head Coach has exercised reasonable judgement with staff and player safety related to COVID-19, given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic as well as the associated novel and evolving safety protocols.”
Roan said players can opt out of the upcoming football season if they are concerned about their health and still be eligible to play next year for the Colonels.
“We have done our very best, in person and electronically, to remind student athletes that they do have the ability to opt out, that their scholarship will be honored,” Roan said.
Based on the investigation, HR has recommended that all players and staff within the football program and athletics department should be reminded on a daily basis of all safety protocols and mandates to be followed relating to COVID-19, including reporting protocols regarding possible non-compliance. HR also recommends that all athletic department staff, including all football program staff, must be accountable for self-monitoring and for monitoring players and students to ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
HR also recommended that the athletics department clarify to all student athletes that they can opt out if they are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, “Head Coach should be reminded of his ongoing responsibility to promote and encourage an atmosphere of compliance and concern for the health and well-being of student athletes, and that he should proactively reach out to EKU Public Safety and/or Athletics Sports Medicine staff with any questions or clarification regarding particular public health, medical or safety guidance.”
The recommendations continue by stating that Wells should continue to make routine but unscheduled appearances at workouts, practices and meetings to ensure continued safety compliance in all activities.
Finally, HR recommended that the athletics department and football program should continue its partnership with Public Safety for continued compliance and training.
The headline has been updated to accurately represent what was found in the report.