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Archive for Thursday, November 18, 1999

KANSAS TO CHECK ON KEMPF CRITICISM

November 18, 1999

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Allegations of abuses by Kansas University swim coach Gary Kempf won't be overlooked, KU athletics director Bob Frederick stressed.

"We have an internal process to deal with such issues, which is confidential," Frederick said in a statement released Wednesday night.

Frederick's statement was in response to an article in Wednesday's University Daily Kansan reporting that Kempf has driven off 40 student-athletes and 10 assistant coaches in the last five years with psychological abuse, inducing unhealthy eating behavior and breaking NCAA training rules.

"I personally want to assure all concerned that we take this matter seriously and any others which may occur," Frederick said.

Kempf has been KU's women's swim coach for 24 years and the men's coach for 18 years. A former KU swimmer, he was named NCAA women's coach of the year in 1983. His teams have won numerous league championships. Last spring he was voted Big 12 coach of the year even though the Jayhawks finished third in the conference meet.

Kempf denied all the allegations, saying: "I'm the same coach I've always been. The vast majority of kids respect our program. The support has been unbelievable."

Kempf said he has heard encouraging words from former coaches and athletes and even from alumni who read the Daily Kansan story on the Internet.

Nevertheless, it's clear Kempf has his detractors.

One of the most outspoken has been Adrienne Turner, a former captain who completed her eligibility last spring but is still enrolled on campus.

Turner, a native of Goshen, Ind., earned the prestigious KU Female Student-Athlete of the Year award last spring. The male recipient was basketball player Ryan Robertson.

Kempf, Turner said, has "a complete disregard for the student-athlete. When swimmers come back for alumni gatherings, they share horror stories."

How many former KU swimmers are anti-Kempf?

"I can definitely tell you it is not a minority who come out with a bitter taste in their mouths," Turner said.

Rebecca Eustice, a senior from Loveland, Colo., and a current co-captain, disagrees.

"I was actually pretty good friends with (Turner) and I'm really hurt the way she has attacked the program," Eustice said. "She's really hurting the team."

Eustice read the story in the Daily Kansan and called it a "real stab" at the program.

"I think (Kempf) is a great coach," Eustice said. "I haven't had any of the problems brought up in the article."

Brian Klapper, a senior co-captain from Hamilton, Ohio, said he was disappointed by the negative tone of the Daily Kansan story.

"I've had positive experiences here," Klapper said. "I think (Kempf) got a bad rap. He eats, sleeps and breathes swimming. His life has been devoted to it, and he cares for us a lot."

It is Turner's contention, however, that current members of the team are reluctant to criticize him.

"If it gets back to him," Turner said, "that's something he has over them."

Scholarships are renewable every year and theoretically grant money is something Kempf could hold over their heads.

"I disagree," Klapper said. "(Scholarship) money is a big issue with me, and he has never threatened to take away my scholarship."

Klapper does concede not everyone responds to Kempf's coaching style.

"He's very vocal about what he likes and dislikes," Klapper said, "and some people have a hard time with that. To each his own. The people who left just didn't fit in, I guess."

What concerns Kempf most about the brouhaha created by the newspaper article is that it's a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

"This is not a contest anybody is going to win," he said. "It's time to get on with our lives, and I'm ready to do that."

-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is cwoodling@ljworld.com.

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