Some athletes who helped nudge the coach out say his May 18 departure was past due because of a “fear-based” coaching style, his verbal abuse and his weight-shaming of runners — allegations made public Wednesday by The UW Daily.
Former University of Washington track and field coach Greg Metcalf, who resigned earlier this month after some of his athletes pushed for his ouster, says he was “saddened” to learn of allegations of mistreatment made against him.
“While I can’t speak directly to these claims, I can say that I have always viewed it as my responsibility as a coach to take care of the whole person, including the emotional, social, physical, academic and athletic components of our student-athletes,” Metcalf said in a statement to The Seattle Times on Wednesday. “I am saddened to hear that some of the student-athletes I have coached feel that they were not cared for, but I am extremely proud of the body of work I have composed in over 20 years of coaching and caring for students.”
The UW athletic department on May 18 announced a “mutual separation” with Metcalf, 49, a former Husky All-American distance runner who had been the UW coach since 2002.
Metcalf’s departure has divided the team as it prepares for the NCAA championships next week. Some athletes who helped nudge the coach out say his departure was past due because of his “fear-based” coaching style, his verbal abuse and his weight-shaming of runners, allegations made public Wednesday by The UW Daily.
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Others were “distraught” by his sudden resignation, and still others have stepped forward in support of Metcalf.
“One thing about our sport is (weight loss is) so taboo and it’s such a delicate topic to even discuss that if someone says something wrong, it turns into this big thing,” said Darhian Mills, a redshirt freshman hurdler from Bothell. “One thing that is important to know about Metcalf is he’s so passionate that sometimes his passion can get misconstrued or he can miscommunicate it.
“He’s definitely an intense person, but the one thing for me that was always his saving grace was that he really cares. And some people are more sensitive about that and more sensitive to strong personalities, but all I can say about Metcalf through my time here is he’s always been supportive of me.”
The announcement of Metcalf’s resignation came one day after two UW athletes asked for a meeting with athletic director Jennifer Cohen to request the coach’s dismissal.
It was the second time in three years that athletes had requested an audience with athletic department officials to air grievances about Metcalf.
Two members of the team, who spoke to The Seattle Times on the condition of anonymity, said the first meeting, with then-athletic director Scott Woodward in early 2015, did little to change Metcalf’s ways.
The latest attempt to push Metcalf out worked. In a morning meeting with Cohen and two other athletic-department administrators on May 17, the two male athletes detailed the claims against Metcalf.
That afternoon, in a meeting with Cohen and other UW officials, Metcalf agreed to resign.
A team meeting was called the next morning, and Metcalf informed the team of his departure. An athletes-only meeting followed, during which athletes stood up and spoke. Mills said there were strong emotions both for and against Metcalf, and some athletes — many female, she said — who were upset that a group of male athletes had gone to administrations on their behalf without their knowledge.
“Some people were really hurt by his (departure),” Mills said.
Cohen was not made available for comment Wednesday. An athletic department spokesman released a statement:
“On the morning of Thursday, May 17, University of Washington athletic department officials were made aware of student-athletes’ concerns of potential misconduct regarding Coach Greg Metcalf. All student-athlete welfare issues are of the highest importance, and as per departmental policy, athletic officials initiated appropriate processes immediately. In a meeting with athletic department personnel later that afternoon, Coach Metcalf determined that it was in the best interest of the program for him to step away from his position as head coach.”
Former UW runner Sumner Goodwin, in an interview with The UW Daily, said Metcalf was hands-on when it came to runners’ weight. “If I was running poorly during a workout he’d come up to me and be like ‘Sumner Goodwin, how’re you doing?’ and touch my belly and feel my belly to see if there was any fat there. That was definitely a thing,” he told The UW Daily.
He added: “He’s called me a piece of (expletive) multiple times when I’m running bad or just not doing well.”
Goodwin transferred to Gonzaga in 2015.
Meanwhile, former Husky Jake Schmitt in an interview Wednesday spoke glowingly of his experiences with Metcalf as a distance runner from 2007-10.
“Coach Metcalf is 100 percent one of the highlights of my running life, and I’ve been running since basically I was born,” said Schmitt, now a high school coach in California. “He remains one of my biggest running influences and coaching influences and mentors in my life.”