Aug 29, 2023 - News

University of Utah's gymnastics program under review amid emotional abuse allegations

A man with a black polo shirt looks down.

University of Utah gymnastic team head coach Tom Farden during the NCAA Gymnastics National Championship on April 15 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Aric Becker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The University of Utah has hired a law firm to conduct an independent review of the school's celebrated gymnastics program following allegations that head coach Tom Farden mistreated student-athletes.

Driving the news: Former gymnasts, parents and previous staffers have accused Farden of verbal and emotional abuse and physical intimidation against athletes on the Utah Red Rocks team, per the Deseret News, which first reported on the allegations and the investigation.

  • Deseret News cited anonymous sources, consisting of five former gymnasts, the mothers of four gymnasts and two former staffers who worked with Farden.
  • The sources alleged instances of "verbal degradation and public shaming," isolation from family members, and feeling unsafe after seeing Farden throw objects, according to Deseret News.
  • A specific timeline of the alleged abuse was not included in Deseret News' report.

Of note: Farden did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

The other side: Former Red Rocks coaches Greg and Megan Marsden, and prior gymnasts Sydney Soloski and Alexia Burch have come to Farden's defense, commending his teaching approach, Deseret News reported.

  • Greg and Megan Marsden told Deseret News the accusations against Harden are coming from "disgruntled" athletes and parents.
  • In a post on X, previously known as Twitter, former gymnast Mary Lofgren praised Farden, writing that her "experiences with Tom have been nothing but positive."
  • Lofgren's account has since been set to "private."

What they're saying: In a statement, university spokesperson Christopher Nelson confirmed to Axios that law firm Husch Blackwell began its inquiry in July.

  • "The University is committed to ensuring our student-athletes feel respected, supported and safe," Nelson said.
  • "After learning of concerns within our gymnastics program, the University ordered an outside independent review of the program."

Between the lines: The law firm is known for conducting independent investigations into the culture and climate of NCAA athletic programs.

Context: Farden was hired as an assistant coach for the Red Rocks in 2010. He became the head coach in 2020.

What's next: Nelson said the school expects to receive the findings of the investigation in the coming weeks and will publish them on the university's website.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Salt Lake City stories

No stories could be found

Salt Lake Citypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more