Southern Illinois University athletic director Liz Jarnigan has been fired and swim & dive head coach Geoff Hanson is under investigation after a pair of female swimmers alleged that Hanson has emotionally and sexually abused them since 2019, as first reported in The Daily Egyptian (DE), SIU’s student newspaper.
Two former members of the women’s swim & dive team, referred to as Athlete 1 and Athlete 2, spoke anonymously to DE, with Athlete 1 saying that Hanson: “Inappropriately commented on athletes’ swimsuits in front of the team, made sexual comments about team members feminine hygiene, touched an athlete’s inner thigh in front of the team, consistently threatened to remove athletes’ scholarships and went over the maximum 20 hours of training per week.”
According to DE, multiple swim & dive athletes had a meeting with SIU’s Equity and Compliance Office on Oct. 9, 2020, with Jarnigan in attendance, where they described Hanson’s conduct.
After no corrective measures were made, the parents of two team members notified SIU Chancellor Austin Lane of the abuse allegations via email on Sept. 7. Jarnigan was then fired on Sept. 9.
Lane, who has been the school’s chancellor since May 2020, released a statement on Sept. 10 thanking Jarnigan for her work at SIU and couldn’t confirm that the allegations resulted in her termination.
While the school did not comment on the current status of Hanson’s employment with the team, a university statement confirmed that the allegations are currently under investigation.
“We take all allegations seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation, following university policies and procedures,” the statement reads. “We will take action accordingly,”
Athlete 2 told DE that seven swimmers had quit at SIU due to Hanson’s abuse and that he disregarded athletes’ mental health with excessive training and repeated threats to remove scholarships.
“He frightened me to the point where I would not be able to sleep before I went to practice,” Athlete 2 said, according to DE. “I was so anxious about showing up to practice and feeling like he doesn’t even care if I’m there or not. I always felt like he didn’t even want some of us there.”
Athlete 1 added that the claims were brought to the assistant swim coaches and said that Hanson told them not to report the claim, according to DE.
“They just know that he’s going to use everything in his power to get his way and if they stand in his way, then they’re going to go down,” Athlete 1 said.
Hanson has been the SIU head swimming & diving coach since May of 2019, and has also spent time coaching Division II Colorado Mesa and Western State Colorado.
The school has begun a national search for a new athletic director, with Matt Kupec taking over the role in the interim.
The SIU swimming & diving teams compete in the Missouri Valley Conference, with the women placing second at the MVC Championships in April, while the men’s team took third at the 2021 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championships.