Not so fast, Utah… — Other gym news — Thoughts from Morgan Hurd in conversation with Heath Thorpe
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Nov. 18, 2023
On Sunday night around 9 p.m. EST (a.k.a. the time when, if news breaks, it is either accidental or an attempt to bury a body, so to speak), sportswriter Trent Wood of Utah’s Deseret News tweeted, in part, “Per a release from the Univesity of Utah, head gymnastics coach Tom Farden has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately.”
Assuming that this was not accidental, this felt like Utah’s attempt at getting this news out as quietly as possible. If a head coach falls in the Beehive State and all the journalists are getting ready for bed, does anyone hear?
After all, we all heard very clearly Kara Eaker’s statement last month about her experience with Farden (whom she did not directly name, but who was Utah’s male head coach during her time there) that led to her withdrawal from the university and her retirement from gymnastics.
We heard the rush of transfers out of Utah last year. Three athletes (Jillian Hoffman, Lucy Stanhope, and Sage Thompson) left the program for other schools amid rumors that their experiences with Farden had been less than stellar.
We heard the conclusion of the $150,000 external investigation into Farden’s coaching by Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell, the results of which were released in September. The one that stated that Farden’s behavior did not rise to the level of actual abuse.
When Utah announced Sunday that Farden was on leave, they took pains to tell us that it was “recent conduct…not related to student-athlete welfare.”
Utah assistant coach Carly Dockendorf now assumes control of the program as interim head coach. By some accounts, Dockendorf acted as a buffer between Farden and some of the Utah gymnasts. She is also considered the reason Utah’s beam lineup could perform during a sharknado and still get 10s. College Gym News provided some background on Dockendorf in a 2020 article. I don’t know if you can call a program of Utah’s caliber a sinking ship, but it’s definitely hit an iceberg. Dockendorf’s ability to get everyone to the lifeboats will be key this season.
So, a developing story.
What was a sleepy Sunday night now has a big cliffhanger ending.
Other gym news
The Gymternet has a bunch of recent results up, including those from the Swiss Cup, which was won by Team USA’s Jade Carey and Yul Moldauer.
The Balance Beam Situation had a feature on National Signing Day, when gymnasts who will begin competing in NCAA in 2025 signed their National Letters of Intent (NLIs, not to be confused with the cold hard NIL — Name, Image, and Likeness — cash).
The FIG put out a press release announcing the new skills from worlds.
USAG posted about national team camp attendees. Yes, Gabby Douglas was there.
Florida gymnasts Anya Pilgrim, Kayla DiCello, and Leanne Wong were recognized for representing Barbados (Pilgrim) and Team USA (DiCello and Wong) at international competitions this fall.
Kent State’s Craig Ballard was promoted to associate head coach.
Five at the IX: Morgan Hurd (via Heath Thorpe’s new podcast, Leaps ‘n Bounds)
Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe debuted his new podcast, Leaps ‘n Bounds, on November 6. This week, he interviewed Morgan Hurd. As the gymternet is well aware, Thorpe and Hurd are BFFs, and Hurd doesn’t hold back in this chat. We hear a lot about her reaction to not competing at the 2021 Olympic Trials, in particular. Whether you agree with her or not, it’s refreshing to hear a gymnast speak out about that time.