Who is Jomo Thompson, Head Coach of University of Kentucky's Cheerleading Squad Fired After Hazing Scandal?

The University of Kentucky on Monday fired the entire coaching staff of its cheerleading team, after it found they had turned a blind eye on incidents of excessive alcohol consumption, public nudity and hazing.

Head coach Jomo Thompson, assistants Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix and adviser T. Lynn Williamson were all dismissed after a three-month investigation by the university unveiled the coaches had been guilty of "lax oversight" and condoned "inappropriate behavior" from members of the team.

"The University of Kentucky has built the nation's premier collegiate cheerleading program," University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said in a statement.

"But regrettably, the integrity of the program has been compromised by inappropriate behavior by some squad members on off-campus trips and by lax oversight by the program's coaches and advisor."

The university indicated that the three-month probe was launched following a team retreat in Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, in February.

According to the report, while in Lake Cumberland cheerleaders "performed gymnastics routines that including hurling their teammates from a dock into the water while either topless or bottomless".

At a separate team camp in Tennessee, members of the team were directed by others to perform "lewd chants and wear outfits that did not include underwear," the report added.

The investigation also found a number of team members needed medical treatment after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, some of which was reportedly brought to the retreat by former team members.

Thompson's dismissal has sent shockwaves through the cheerleading world. While not a varsity program, cheerleading is considered a competitive sport under the auspices of the NCAA. Kentucky is a powerhouse of the sport and has won 24 nationals in the last 35 years.

Of those 24 titles, 18 came under Thompson's stewardship. Last year, Kentucky claimed a fourth straight national title at the Universal Cheerleaders Association championships in Orlando, Florida.

A native of the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts & Nevis, Thompson spent 22 years with the University of Kentucky and had been the cheerleading team's head coach since 2002.

In an interview with ESPN last year, Thompson compared the profile of Kentucky's cheerleading program to that of a major football university and highlighted that just in football and basketball, recruitment played a crucial role in the sport.

"I try to find the best recruits," he was quoted as saying. "I really go out and try to get the best."

His page on the university's official website is no longer responsive and his profile appears to have been taken down. An archive version of the webpage dated January 18—before the investigation began—lists Thompson's details and years of service with the program.

In response to a question about why he decided to get into cheerleading, the former head coach is quoted as saying that "pretty girls talked me into the sport."

However, that reference is omitted from an updated version of the same webpage dated May 17, a day before the school released the findings of its investigation.

The university added that Williamson, who had served as an adviser to the program since 1978, retired shortly after learning of the ongoing investigation. According to an official statement from the school, he was also instructed not to have contact with members of the cheerleading team.

"The adviser and the coaches failed to stop a culture of hazing, alcohol use and public nudity at off-campus activities where they were present," Eric N. Monday, the university's executive vice president for finance and administration, said in a statement.

"Our students deserve more responsible leadership and the University of Kentucky demands it."

The school has wasted no time in looking for a replacement and has already began a comprehensive search for a new head coach and coaching staff.

"This must be a championship-level program both on and off the court and playing fields," athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. "And as with all our sports, that will be our goal—every day."

Newsweek has contacted the University of Kentucky for comment.

University of Kentucky, Cheerleaders
University of Kentucky cheerleaders are seen during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Rupp Arena on February 23, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. Michael Hickey/Getty

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About the writer

Dan Cancian is currently a reporter for Newsweek based in London, England. Prior to joining Newsweek in January 2018, he was a news and business reporter at International Business Times UK. Dan has also written for The Guardian and The Observer. 

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