Washington’s longtime women’s crew coach said he would quit after stormy meeting, then changed his mind and was fired Nov. 24, according to new documents released Friday.
Bob Ernst, Washington’s longtime women’s crew coach, was fired because his rowers “lost confidence” in him, according to documents released Friday.
A Nov. 24 dismissal letter sent Ernst, 69, by former UW athletic director Scott Woodward said he was fired because “multiple student-athletes on the women’s rowing team have communicated to the athletic department that they are not having a positive experience. As such, it is not in their best interests to continue to be coached by you.’’
The letter, released due to a public-records request, mentions a Friday, Nov. 20 meeting between Ernst and his rowers at the UW’s Shellhouse in which they confronted him with their grievances. Woodward mentions in the letter that Ernst disagreed with the accusations and told crew members he was resigning.
Ernst stormed out, as described in a Seattle Times story on Dec. 3.
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Two days after the stormy meeting, according to crew members and others interviewed for the story, Ernst sent an email to rowers on Nov. 22 telling them he disagreed with how they’d handled things and he was staying as coach.
The rowers were said in the story to have been so concerned by the email, they gathered at a private house Sunday night to discuss their next step. They expressed concerns to senior associate athletic director Shondell Reed, who had been at their meeting with Ernst two days before.
The records released Friday show that after hearing from the rowers, Reed emailed Ernst early Monday morning on Nov. 23 asking him to meet that afternoon “to discuss Friday’s resignation and the plan moving forward.’’
Ernst replied an hour or so later that he never resigned at the meeting, but had indicated he’d retire.
“At this point, after figuring out how that meeting developed, I have no intentions of retiring,’’ Ernst told Reed, according to the documents.
They agreed to meet that afternoon, but Reed postponed it until the next day in Woodward’s office. Ernst was fired at that Nov. 24 meeting.
Woodward’s dismissal letter said it was too late for Ernst to change his mind and stay. “It is apparent that many, if not most of the team members, have lost confidence in your leadership,” it said.
The university, citing student privacy laws, did not release documents from an investigation Reed is said to have conducted into complaints against Ernst. UW officials said in December that the school has not self-reported any violations by Ernst to the NCAA.
The investigation was sparked by an office argument between Ernst and junior coxswain Marlow Mizer on the first day of classes that resulted in her leaving the team. Mizer later complained to administration about Ernst’s coaching tactics and demeanor, and Reed investigated, interviewing more than two dozen people.
The probe apparently did not uncover enough to warrant Ernst’s dismissal. He was instead told to meet the rowers and hear their grievances in what would be the final weekend of his 42-season tenure with UW crew.
The university did release one letter of complaint about Ernst, made by a barge driver, Justin Wilcox, after a mid-October run-in with the coach during a UW crew practice. Wilcox wrote that Ernst was “waving his hands at me and giving me the middle finger” because he felt Wilcox was driving too fast and creating too big of a wake for his rowers.
He wrote that Ernst told three of his crew shells to unsafely cross the shipping channel to slow him down.
“Two of the three boats crossed right in front of me, the other one decided not to,’’ Wilcox wrote.
But on Friday, Ernst told The Times another coach gestured at Wilcox and ordered the boats into the barge’s path. Ernst said he told this to Reed during his investigation and the incident did not factor into his dismissal.