University of Idaho diving coach Jim Southerland, who was put on administrative leave last April after the school was informed he was investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport in February, has been reinstated and is not listed in the Team USA SafeSport database.
The allegations under investigation involved a sexual relationship between Southerland and a female diver he coached near Seattle at least five years before he joined the staff at Idaho, according to a USA Today report.
At the time of his administrative leave, the school told SwimSwam the following: “Mr. Southerland is currently on administrative leave in response to an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, in conjunction with USA Diving. The athletic department was notified of the investigation April 11, by both USA Diving and Mr. Southerland himself. He was formally placed on administrative leave April 13.”
SwimSwam has reached out to the school for comment on Southerland’s reinstatement.
Southerland’s colleague Bob Ketrick told USA Today that the situation was a case of “political witch-hunting,” spurred by the scandals plaguing USA Gymnastics and other Olympic sports, including swimming.
“There comes a point where the law swings too far one way,” Ketrick said. “Before, there were no protections for kids. A lot of stuff was unreported. OK, so we made the system better, but (also created) … opportunity for people with vendettas to take advantage of a new system.”
The original complaint against Southerland was filed by his now ex-wife Patti McEuen, who alleged that he had a relationship with a diver between the ages of 17 and 20, while he was between the ages of 52 and 55. McEuen also said that the diver called her “crying and seeking help about the situation” in 2010, at which point she was 20 years old. McEuen maintains that in addition to having sex with the diver, Southerland “groomed” and later stalked her.
Ketrick also said Southerland was absolved of breaking any law and added that McEuen is “out of control.” McEuen admitted that Southerland’s relationship with the diver is what led to her divorce.
Sgt. Ryan Abbott of the sheriff’s department in King County, Washington, told USA Today that the department followed-up on the complaint in 2015, and said that if even if true, it would not have been a crime; he noted that the age of sexual consent in the state is 16.