Lehigh track and field head coach Matt Utesch has apologized to his team for alleged insensitive comments. The apology comes amidst several female student-athletes sharing incidents and allegations involving Utesch, several of which have been reported to university administration. (Emily Hu/B&W Staff)

Track and field head coach issues apology to team over alleged insensitive comments

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A Lehigh University track coach has apologized to his team for complaints lodged by multiple athletes regarding inappropriate and unprofessional language and actions.

In a July 1 email to the 120-member team, shared with The Brown and White by a former Lehigh track athlete, track and field coach Matt Utesch said that he is remorseful and that the result of this past year’s coaching evaluation “hurts.”

“Some of the themes that have emerged from last season involve perceptions that I am insensitive to a number of issues from mental health/stress, religion, race and sexual orientation,” he said in the email. “…I am saddened and disappointed that I may have caused undue stress or anxiety for some of our team. … I ask that you would have the courage to discuss with me those times when I may make you feel awkward or uncomfortable.”

Lehigh track and field head coach Matt Utesch sent a July 1 email to his team in response to coaching evaluations athletes had submitted. He expressed that he was saddened that he may have caused stress to some members of the team. (Courtesy Lehigh Sports)

The Brown and White was tipped to the allegations by a former athlete, who has since transferred, and investigated numerous allegations against the coach, reviewing reports and emails shared by sources and reaching out to dozens of individuals close to the team in order to obtain confirmation of certain claims. 

In particular, five female track athletes, one assistant coach and the father of a prospective student-athlete shared with The Brown and White their experiences of inappropriate, often sexually-charged comments, on record. All of the alleged incidents occurred within the past two years.

Several of those who shared allegations reported their experiences through the proper equal opportunity and compliance reporting channels with varying degrees of resolution. Among the mandated reporters who have fielded complaints include Athletic Director Joe Sterrett, President John Simon and Title IX Coordinator Karen Salvemini.

One former senior track athlete, who requested anonymity for fear of losing her scholarship, quit the team in part due to several incidents that she says made her uncomfortable. The athlete met with Sterrett in January 2019 to discuss her concerns. 

She then filed a Title IX report on May 4 and has yet to receive a response, which exceeds the 60-day response guidelines set forth by the university, though the university reserves the right to take longer if it deems it necessary. Salvemini said she tries to keep all individuals involved in a case updated on the timeline, noting it’s more important to “take time to do the investigation right, not rush the process to meet a deadline.”

“(Utesch) started doing things like kicking me on the butt (with his foot),” the senior athlete said. “Every time I was by myself or with another teammate, he would kick us on the butt.”

Sarah Bond, a sophomore thrower, has officially transferred to Missouri Southern State University, citing a lack of competitiveness and professionalism in the Lehigh program, as well as her alleged inappropriate experience with Utesch. She said she made the decision to transfer around the time of spring break 2019.

Bond wrote a summary of her experiences on the track team and sent that summary to Sterrett and Simon on May 1. The summary, which was later forwarded to Salvemini on May 7 by Simon, alleged that Utesch “smacked my butt with a stick” as she was walking to the track following a March meeting to kick off the spring outdoor season. She also met with Sterrett on May 1, and Bond said she did not confront Utesch about the unwanted motion. 

“I did not ask for this motion nor did I hint toward it being welcome,” Bond wrote in the summary, which she shared with The Brown and White. 

After a May 14 meeting with Salvemini, Bond said she decided to file a Title IX report against Utesch detailing her alleged inappropriate encounter. Bond received a message from Salvemini on July 1 in which the Title IX coordinator said she had briefed Simon on the matter and offered the president recommendations for next steps, noting she will sometimes consult with other administration officials depending on the situation. She also told Bond she would be following up with her. Bond is waiting for further correspondence.

Sterrett confirmed that he has fielded concerns against Utesch.

“Concerns, yes. Unprofessional behavior that was deemed to be unconventional and perhaps questionable in terms of professionalism,” Sterrett said. “I have not had anybody express to me directly a concern about inappropriate sexual behavior. I want to be really clear about that. I have not. But uncomfortable language, perspectives shared that left someone feeling less comfortable — that has been shared in the context of preseason and postseason review.”

When asked to confirm that no inappropriate sexual conduct occurred after reading Bond’s report of being hit on the butt with a stick, Sterrett said “any interpretation or comment” on Bond’s summary would need to come from the Title IX office.

Salvemini said she cannot discuss cases filed through her office.

The President’s Office issued a general statement pertaining to the handling of concerns from athletes.

“Concerns received by the President’s Office and Athletics are reviewed and referred to the appropriate university offices tasked with the expertise and knowledge to investigate the concerns,” read a statement from Simon. “Student-athletes concerned with the leadership of their team are encouraged to contact Joe Sterrett … to discuss the circumstances. Dean Sterrett and I are fully committed to ensuring a positive experience for the university’s student-athletes.” 

In other circumstances in which Title IX reports were not officially filed, meetings and correspondence of concerns were conducted with an administrator — and at times, with the coach directly.

Brianna Wanbaugh, a junior thrower, said Utesch once “looked me in the eye and told me, ‘Racism does not exist,’ while patting my leg at the same time.” While Wanbaugh said she didn’t feel the contact was sexual in nature, she said “him touching me as a young woman of color made me feel powerless.” 

Wanbaugh said student athletes on the team have discussed feeling uncomfortable with how Utesch touches them.

Wanbaugh’s alleged incident followed a conversation in which Utesch allegedly told Wanbaugh a story about how “he went to high school with mostly minorities, and then when he went to college, he hadn’t seen a person of color in so long he had to do a double take when he passed a black person on campus.”

Wanbaugh said she met with Sterrett on April 18 to discuss her concerns and then met with Utesch on June 27 to discuss her standing on the team. She said she is considering leaving the track team and said Utesch seemed saddened by the conversation because he “was coming to realize maybe he wasn’t making as good an impact on these kids’ lives like he had hoped.” 

Wanbaugh, however, noted that Utesch presented several courses of action to help rebuild relationships. 

Student-athletes are not alone in their reports to the administration over Utesch’s behavior.

Ki Soo Burkhauser visited Lehigh’s campus from Oct. 7-8, 2017, with his daughter, a senior high school track athlete being recruited to the track and field team at the time. Burkhauser said that from this visit and a recruiting dinner, he developed some “reservations” about Utesch. In an April 24, 2018, email sent to administrators Sterrett and Simon, and later shared with Salvemini, Burkhauser shared his concerns.

“Perhaps most disturbing, as a father of four children, of which three are daughters, was the fact that Coach Utesch, at the final dinner, made repeated sexual and misogynistic comments about a specific runner…, commenting on physical attributes of the runner, saying that she was ‘hot’ and commenting that his son also found her to be ‘hot,’” Burkhauser said in his email. 

Ryan Yurchick, an assistant coach who was with the team from 2008-2012 and 2016-2018, confirmed that he and Burkhauser had a separate conversation regarding the father’s concerns. Yurchick, who was at the recruiting dinner but did not hear the comments that Burkhauser alleges Utesch made, confirmed that he and Burkhauser discussed, either that night or the next day, the father’s concerns and the alleged comments made by Utesch at the dinner.  

Yurchick said Burkhauser’s complaint against Utesch wasn’t the first he’s heard of that nature. 

There were things that were brought to my attention by athletes, by recruits, that were kind of off-color — things that shouldn’t be said around specific people or maybe anyone, people of specific genders or demographics,” Yurchick said.

In an email chain forwarded to The Brown and White, Salvemini responded to Burkhauser on April 25, 2018, and said she would be “initiating a formal University investigation into the allegations of harassment and retaliation that you have reported to the University.” But after one more email correspondence on April 27, 2018, in which Burkhauser said he was “taken aback” by the tone of Salvemini’s response and was disappointed in what he perceived as the “absence of any concern for (his daughter),” and with his daughter’s May 1 decision days away, Burkhauser said he offered to come to campus to speak to Salvemini in person about his concerns. Salvemini did not respond to that offer until the end of the day, and Burkhauser said the lack of “urgency” from the administration to his concerns prompted the family to look elsewhere for his daughter’s collegiate athletic career. 

Burkhauser said he never heard further from Salvemini about the investigation she said she would launch. 

While Salvemini said she can’t talk about cases, she did offer an outline of the reporting process.

Salvemini said generally that Lehigh maintains three avenues for an individual to report his or her concerns: through Salvemini’s office, Lehigh police or the Gender Violence Support Advocates. Two reporting forms exist: the gender violence reporting form and the discrimination, harassment, retaliation or bias incident reporting form. The latter may be submitted anonymously. 

The university’s 2017-18 Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator’s report stated that all athletic coaches and staff went through training sessions on the topics of harassment, discrimination, retaliation and sexual misconduct. The trainings also discussed mandatory reporting, reporting options and available support resources, according to the university report. 

Ultimately, Salvemini said it is up to each victim to determine how to best handle the specific circumstance. She said she can make victims aware of protection from abuse orders and their criminal options, as well as connect people with community organizations or the police so the victim can learn more information. She can also offer options regarding support resources and university processes and interim support measures. 

“There are certain circumstances, however, where I am required to move forward, like in a case where we have multiple reports of someone being accused of certain behavior and if we are worried about the community at large,” Salvemini said. 

And Noreen Byrne, a captain of the track and field team during the 2019 season, said she experienced a negative verbal encounter with Utesch during her sophomore year.

She met with Stacy Shiffert, the associate athletic director for business and budget, on April 15 to discuss concerns that some of Utesch’s comments made her uncomfortable.

Byrne said Shiffert was accommodating and that she left the meeting feeling at peace but wasn’t clear on what direct changes would be made.

“Most of this behavior has become very normalized and brushed off by people on the team,” Byrne said.

Meanwhile, one more student athlete shared allegations with The Brown and White that she said was not reported to university officials primarily because she said she didn’t know if it was worthy of a formal report. The claim has been supported by multiple sources.

The junior track athlete, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being cut from the team after speaking out, said she recalled one incident involving alleged inappropriate language from Utesch. The team was in Richmond, Virginia, at an outdoor meet, when one sophomore cross-country student-athlete was looking for a seat on the bus and chose not to take an empty seat next to a female athlete because he “didn’t want to fall asleep on her.” 

“Matt says to him, ‘What? You don’t want to sleep with her? Everyone would love to be able to say they slept with her,’” the junior athlete said. “The girl didn’t say anything because the last thing you want to do is talk back to your coach before an event.”

Meanwhile, the former track athlete who filed the Title IX report said although the two agreed on a solution that allowed her to keep her scholarship while not remaining a part of the track program, she wasn’t convinced Sterrett was committed to making positive change when it came to the larger concerns regarding Utesch’s behavior. 

“He didn’t really want to address what Coach Matt did,” she said. “He kept saying he didn’t want to dwell on the past, but he wanted to move forward and focus on the positive.”

Sterrett said he takes each concern seriously and tries to resolve each one. 

“All of them (have been addressed with Utesch). … Number one, it is important for our staff to acknowledge that a perception by a team member of a coach’s behavior could and did create a level of discomfort, stress or anxiety, and to discern whether the coach is willing to make a sincere commitment to being more effective,” Sterrett said. “Often, there is an educational component to this process of learning that helps a coach to understand why a student could feel as they do and how the coach can function differently in the future. The willingness of a coach to accept that interactions with a team member were uncomfortable for the student, and then to be sincerely committed to changing behavior, is essential. Every individual circumstance needs to be evaluated and never dismissed. That is part of the department’s commitment and the university’s commitment.”

Utesch said he wants to learn how to improve.

“As you go through that (sexual harassment) training, the first step is for someone to say, ‘That makes me feel uncomfortable.’… I just know that someone feels uncomfortable, and I apparently am responsible for that, and I want to learn to deal with those situations — and that’s what the university and I are working on,” Utesch said.

Utesch stopped short of confirming whether someone has directly said to him, “That makes me feel uncomfortable.”

“I don’t want to cross a line of privacy for someone else,” he said. “I don’t think I should answer that question.”

Still, some were caught off guard by Utesch’s email to the team. 

Utesch has a record of success as Lehigh’s track and field head coach for the men’s and women’s teams. A two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year, Utesch said that every track-related school record comes from someone his staff has coached, and the top 10 performances in every event have all also come from athletes who he or his staff has coached. 

Senior triple jumper Cate Shippee said she has had “a really positive experience” on the team and was “definitely surprised” to read Utesch’s July 1 email acknowledging complaints against him. 

“I was honestly upset for him,” Shippee said.“I felt pretty badly that he’s dealing with this right now because I’ve never experienced any of this first hand. I had a great year, I’ve had a great experience with him, he’s been there for me for many different topics and aspects of my life off the track.”

Brooke Astor, a former Lehigh track athlete and a current assistant coach for the track and field team, will be going into her sixth season as a member of the coaching staff. She said she “wouldn’t trade anything” for her job with the program.

Though Astor says she has a strong and open relationship with Utesch, she said “it is difficult to hear everything and to know what people are saying” in terms of complaints against the head coach.

“I truly believe that he wants what’s best for the athletes, even if that means he has to change,” Astor said.

Courtney Avery, a high jumper who graduated from Lehigh in 2017, spent her four years on the track team under the tutelage of Utesch. She maintains that Utesch is “one of the most genuine, caring and hardworking coaches” that she has worked alongside.

“Coach Matt is one of the reasons I chose to come to Lehigh and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to know him and his family,” Avery said. “The idea of family is something that’s really important to him and it’s exactly how he runs the program. He was constantly telling us that being part of a program like this isn’t just about the results on the track: it’s about learning and growing to become better people after it was over.” 

Rising junior sprinter Sam Tapera said he hasn’t seen any instances of inappropriate behavior by Utesch and that he has a good relationship with the head coach, but added that “the generational divide … can be difficult for him to relate to this generation.”

The women who came forward to share their allegations say they hope others will use their voices, too, to bring about positive change.

Bond said she reported her experiences to administrators in order to “to save others from … the emotional and physical distress” of Lehigh’s head track coach.

Though she has already begun training at her new Missouri school, she said she is encouraged by her former teammates standing up to the “manipulation from a very powerful position.”

“It is discussed constantly on the track team, but very rarely do people have an outlet for it,” Bond said. “But now that more people are talking, it’s very encouraging. One experience won’t take care of what’s happening right now — it will be all of these voices on top of each other that will make the biggest difference.”

Wanbaugh said until individuals start speaking up, she thinks it’s hard to know an individual is being mistreated when there’s nothing to compare the experience to. She said the “most problem-solving result would be Matt changing his ways or leaving,” but expressed doubt toward the chances of that happening, feeling that “Lehigh seems to want to cover things up instead of solve them.” Wanbaugh specifically referenced two recent lawsuits the university is defending, one in which the former Health Center director is alleged to have sexually harassed students and staff and one in which a black professor alleges the university did nothing when she claimed she told the university a former professor was sexually harassing her.

Wanbaugh said between feelings of discomfort, miscommunication with the coaching staff and a lack of quality instruction, “there was always a problem.” 

“So I just felt like any type of speaking about it might change this situation,” she said.

Utesch, meanwhile, said while he denies he harbors any type of bias, “these complaints exist,” and he’s working “with the department and Lehigh University to become more sensitive to these kinds of things and address them in new and different ways.” He said he’s “excited to work to improve.”

Wanbaugh said despite the challenges she has faced on the team, she’s proud of the culture the team has fostered.

“Although this past year has been tough for individuals on the team in more ways than one, I’ve noticed some of these hardships have brought us together and helped leadership on the team to mature,” she said. 

This report was compiled by The Brown and White’s Investigative Team. If you wish to talk about an experience or uncomfortable situation with a professional, there are resources available at the university, including Lehigh’s Title IX coordinator or Counseling Center.

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58 Comments

  1. This article’s attempt to vilify a man who created a safe and welcoming second family for hundreds of LUTF females is horrendous. It’s clear that the B&W were more concerned with the few opinions of people who have had minimal to no interaction with Coach Matt over the past 3 years and we’re cut from the team for violating team rules than the countless others they reached out to who had nothing negative to say over their collective 25 years of experience. In today’s cancel culture, it’s the obligation of publications like the B&W to have not present biased and incomplete information that could rob this institution of a great coach and better role model.

    • I disagree. I’m a recent LUTF graduate and have witnessed my fair share of inappropriate comments coming from him. I will say I have never felt unsafe or seriously threatened, however they are inappropriate comments nonetheless.

    • Lehigh Track and Field Athlete on

      As a recent former athlete of the program, I have seen Coach Matt help many women, including myself, through some of the darkest most challenging years of life. He is a man of integrity and compassion that coaches with his whole heart, lending a hand to those that find themselves homesick and lost at Lehigh. His office door is truly always open for anyone who needs to talk. And I hope this article does not slam that door closed to those that need it most.

    • I was a member of the Lehigh Track and Field team and a graduate of the class of 2016. I was very involved in the leadership on the team and spent a great deal of time with Coach Matt and the rest of the coaching staff.

      While yes, his office door is always open and on the surface he is an incredibly caring individual. He is always taking athletes to get coffee or lunch and welcoming them in. However, the conversations had during those times are often manipulative, degrading, invasive, and confusing. He constantly comments on girls bodies, makes homophobic comments, touches girls inappropriately, and is just overall, very detrimental to a young athletes mental health. This article does not even tell half of the things going on in that program. As a member of the men’s team, I heard comments daily about the things he was doing or saying to my female teammates.

      I know for a fact that multiple members on the current team have confronted him about how his behavior affects them and he was unresponsive. He can not take criticism productively and turns the focus on him, seeking pity.

      As it never has been, and still is not about Matt. This article was not meant for him. I’m sure the students who wrote this article did not wake up thinking, “Hmmm who can we rip up today?!” No, they thought about the people coming forward to them who HAVE been affected. This article is for the future of the program and those athletes that he’s made feel helpless. The Brown and White team did a very nice job of presenting both sides.

      For the parents speaking in Matt’s defense, you should feel very fortunate. The way in which Matt treated your daughters was exactly what you had described. However, as someone who was on the team with them, they were not treated like the rest of us were. Im glad they had a positive relationship, but please do not diminish the words of these girls who have not. My parents were not lucky enough to hear about how happy I was on Lehigh Track and Field team, rather they got countless phone calls of me angrily questioning whether I should quit the sport I love over a coach who made me question my worth on a daily basis. I could see how he was affecting my teammates and felt like I couldn’t do anything about it.

      As for the ignorant comment about the athlete who got cut from the team, it is very clear that you were not there to see that all unfold. It was saddening to hear of her story and see her struggling from the outside and know from my experience that she was not being treated fairly. I was on the team with her and what Matt did to her life is inexcusable and is an entirely different issues. I did not see her name in this article and I don’t think her story was even mentioned, maybe I’m wrong. But your hate filled comment appears to be full of uneducated opinions. He is being vilified because he’s done awful things. Makes sense to me.

  2. To the comment above: My current girlfriend was on the track team during our time at Lehigh (we both went there). She was not cut, did exceptionally well there, and graduated while completing her time on the team (all four years).

    I’ve heard countless times from her (post graduation) of the inappropriate nature of coach Utesch, to the point where they had a “game” going while there they called, “You’ve been tesch-ed” (A play on his last name for those not capturing the tesch to touch innuendo).

    No one wants to lose their scholarship, so no one wants to speak up. We have both graduated since and are a few years removed, but seeing this article is (and will be) and opening of Pandora’s box.

    Just because you (or your kid) had a “great time with coach” doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to others. Open your eyes and ears and don’t shut others voices out. Don’t assume it’s an effort to oust a coach that cut your friend/kid until you hear all the facts. Or until you’ve been “tesched”

  3. The Brown and White’s very blatant lack of research is astounding. Claiming they have been investigating this for months, yet failed to reach out to the vast network of notable alumni from Lehigh Track and Field is unacceptable. I, personally, tried to give a quote when I found out this was being written, and was told that I could not. It is completely unfair and biased to silence the former athletes who’s lives were changed for the better by this man. As a woman and a feminist, I am horrified to watch this unfold. Things like this distract from the real predators of the world. I have traveled basically alone with this man numerous times in the past, and spent countless hours getting trained by him. Never once did I feel uncomfortable. He, and his incredible wife Deb, are adored and I hope that the voices of myself and my peers can be heard over this harmful noise.

  4. Regine LeJouan on

    Coach Matt was an amazing coach, confidant, stand in parent to our daughter for four years.

    He helped support her during her freshman year blues, encouraged and motivated her to be an outstanding athlete, student and confident woman.

    It’s such a shame that the voices of the people who know him well we’re never given a chance to come to his defense before this article was printed.

    I’m a proud Lehigh mom who stands steadfastly beside Coach Matt and his amazing wife Coach Deb!!!

    RL

    • Definite snowflakes at work again. I marvel at how women want equal treatment but when they are slapped in the butt like all coaches & players do in men’s sport it is somehow distorted to sexual imitations.

      Pretty soon the football players will be alledging abuse for having to do push-ups with the coaches hand on their backs. The world has become way too serious to the point of taking the fun out of it.

      I remember when we shined up our personal paddles and asked for more swats to my butt when we were fraternity pledges & enjoyed the sport of it all. We weren’t intimmidated nor mentally challenged by it but simply part of life.

      What happened to the old “sticks & stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me”mindset in America.

      Grow up & tow the line or quit the team & move on.

      • Are you insane? A man cannot slap a woman on the butt even while playing sports. It’s her body. She has the right to determine the boundaries. What the heck am I reading here. And to those who say, it didn’t happen to them and that proves he is a good man, Dr. Nassar was a predator at Michigan State for two decades and he did not molest everyone he came into contact with. This in no way negates the fact that he abused others. So just because Utesch didn’t make suggestive or sexual comments towards someone, or he didn’t touch them, this does not mean he could not have done it to someone else. Given the numerous reports, including the complaint form the father of a recruit, these multiple accusations must be taken seriously.

  5. Brain and Nicolette Avery on

    As parents of a recent graduate of the program, we had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with Coach Matt both at Lehigh and the countless track meets we traveled to across the country. Due to the length of our daughters seasons, there were numerous meets every year where the amount of athletes traveling were limited. This allowed us to spend a lot of personal time with Coach Matt and his family. Over the years we have gotten to know him very well and were extremely upset to read what was written in this article. It’s very evident that the people who spoke out have in no way spent the amount of time with him and gotten to know him as well as we did. Never once did we feel uncomfortable or witness anything less than professionalism from him. It was very clear to us that he was very committed to the program and his athletes. We have so much appreciation and respect for Coach Matt and Lehigh University because of the opportunities that were provided for our daughter. Even after she has graduated, we still travel to attend events on campus and support Coach Matt and his dedication to the program. Due to the biased stance of this article and apparent lack of research/interviews we were compelled to speak out in support of Coach Matt.

  6. I stand with Coach Matt on

    My daughter spent four years under the tutelage of Coach Matt. During that time she matured, faced and overcame difficulties and obstacles, helped others, and learned how to be a team player and leader. Thank you Coach Matt. He was, and continues to be, a wonderful influence on her and others on the team. I have spent time with Matt and his family and found that he deeply cares for the athletes and has their best interest and the team’s best interest at heart. For those of you prejudging him – how does it feel to be judge, jury, and executioner? Do you know all the facts? Or, for that matter, any of the facts? Nope, you don’t. You are not privy to the facts. As for the comment “racism doesn’t exist”: can we have a little context please? Anyone who knows Coach Matt knows that he is a jokester par excellence. Any comment can be taken out of context and used against someone. Regarding the “offended” Mr. Burkhauser – the author failed to state that in the last paragraph of Mr. B’s letter he indicated that he would reconsider sending his daughter to Lehigh if she got a scholarship. Oh, wait, maybe the author didn’t know that fact. Furthermore, what makes Mr. B think he has a right to hear anything about any “investigation”? So, people…this article is a good example of poor journalism. You all need to remove your dunce cap and put on your analytical hat. #IstandwithCoachMatt

  7. As a 2011 graduate who ran on the track team all 4 years when I was there, none of this comes as a surprise. My guess is this is just the beginning and more and more athletes will continue to come forward with stories of Matt Utesch’s inappropriate comments and actions. I know myself and others have brought his behavior up during end of season surveys and exit interviews but nothing has come of it. Let’s hope the administration finally does the right thing and fires him.

      • I ran with Steve, but graduated in a different year. Towards the end of my career I got to know Coach Matt and was surprised at how friendly he was towards me. Despite that, throughout my time at Lehigh I still witnessed several (and heard about more) inappropriate comments and actions towards women on our team.

        Just because people had a positive experience doesn’t mean that other people’s claims aren’t valid. It’s not black and white. Being a positive influence for some people while also acting inappropriately towards others are not mutually exclusive.

  8. Maura Henderson on

    I have been on the team for four years, going onto my fifth. I decided to stay here in large part because of Coach Matt and Coach Deb. I have personally worked with Matt in leadership responsibilities since my sophomore year and have greatly grown from my experience with him. He and his wife have become two very important people in my life and have helped me through adversity I am not sure I would be able to get through without them. I love and support this family.

    I will never say anyone who reports something is wrong in their feelings, they deserve to feel whatever emotions they are dealing with. I hope they feel okay. That being said, any athlete entering this team is safe, if not safer with the support of Coach Matt. He wants for us all to grow into strong young professionals.

    I’ve had a great deal of experiences working with the Brown & White and those have been constantly unprofessional and poorly planned. This is a big piece to write and I think should have been handled better and written to be a far better piece. The Brown & White needs to improve on their writing, editing and research. You should strive to grow too.

  9. I read this article and with each word of the “reporting” that was used as the basis for the story, I felt my anger and disbelief grow. I use the word story because that is what this is. It’s a story whose ending was already decided and whose writers sought facts to reach a conclusion. The severity of the allegations and the impact these words can have on a good man’s life and legacy cannot be fully realized.  I am deeply disappointed by the B&W’s lack of thorough research; it tells a one-sided story and does not give those who know him best the voices to explain the full picture.

    I am a recent graduate from Lehigh and I competed in the multi events, which involved countless hours spent with my teammates and the coaching staff. As such, I had an excellent vantage point to observe or witness Coach Matt’s behavior. Additionally, during my recruiting visits to Lehigh, Coach Matt explained the importance of being part of a team family, even while competing as individuals. Lehigh T&F fostered a team environment and that was directly correlated to Coach Matt and his wife Coach Deb. I was drawn to the atmosphere they created and ultimately chose to attend Lehigh because I trusted that Matt deeply cared about those he was coaching, not just in terms of performance on the track but also in the other aspects of our lives.

    The “family” analogy Matt referred to was an appropriate term for how the team was structured. We had this motto, 4-7, 7-4, written on our water bottles. The phrase meant: no matter how focused and dedicated you were during practice hours (4pm-7pm), your performance, and ultimately your life, will be determined by your actions during the other 21 hours in the day, 7pm-4pm.  He encouraged us to look out for one another, make consistent good choices and to be good examples for the rest of the campus.  During my years as a member of the track program, Matt created a leadership team that met weekly to act as a resource and sounding board for athletes who were struggling with team policies. He encouraged all team members to discuss with him any issue they were facing. He helped to arrange resources to those in need of help beyond what he could provide. Four year athletic careers are short in comparison to our lives after track and he worked to help us for life beyond track and field; he was focused on us growing into the best version of ourselves. He worked to help us cultivate a strong alumni network that I participated in as a student and have been involved with since graduating.

    As a multi athlete at Lehigh, I was fortunate to have known Coach Matt and his family very well. The defamation of his character that seems to be the theme of this article does not present a fair portrayal of him or the teams that he has coached for many years. I never once felt uncomfortable around Coach Matt . Matt Utesch is a good man, and the community that he and his incredible wife Deb have created is something to be admired not torn down.

    It is important for those reading this article and forming an opinion based on this one-sided reporting to know that my teammates and I tried to provide statements which detailed our experiences but we were told the authors were done with their research. How can research only involve one side? Were the writers or editors interested in hearing all sides or just pursuing a sensationalized story? It seems that given the lack of interest in listening to other voices, the Brown and White clearly had an agenda and found people to support their predetermined conclusion.  I understand that everyone has a voice and it deserves to be heard but why were the people who knew him best not contacted to get the full story? We have a voice too, and let’s make it louder than this harmful noise.

  10. Investigate the runner who quit but got to keep her scholarship and is STILL complaining! Sounds like she just wanted an excuse to keep her scholly without running, and now probably wants a payoff

  11. Field Of Lies on

    So none of these alleged snowflake “victims” ever let this man know they felt uncomfortable or didn’t like what he said? Is he a mind-reader? If not, how on earth was he supposed to know, and communicate differently? Public humiliation doesn’t seem fair, and I agree the complainers want something

    • If you read more carefully, there are several reported instances of students confronting him about his behavior, but nothing was ever changed.

      • Agreed. But if after, feedback, investigation, meetings, hearings or whatever you want to call it, LU did not consider making any changes, what to do next? You’re not talking about cover-up I hope….

    • 2019 LUTF Grad on

      These “snowflake” victims as you refer to spoke with Coach Matt about his inappropriate comments. As a recent graduate who spent 4 years on the team, I have heard these comments in person, and have spoken to the women who have received these comments. In many of the cases, they told Coach Matt that these comments were inappropriate. In fact, the Brown and White did not report MANY of the comments that Matt said, as they are too vulgar and unprofessional for anybody to say, especially the head coach of a Division 1 program.

  12. Most actual abuse survivors can only WISH they had merely been subjected to annoying comments and the type of hand-brush common between teammates as seen on televised pro games. These so called offenses undermine real claims of actual abuse and assault. Get real, grow up, and if you can’t say “speaking to me like that makes me uncomfortable, please stop,” then it may not be offensive…or you just made it up for your own sinister ulterior motives. This sounds more like retaliation over starting positions or tuition money.

    • Coreen, continue to attack the accuser. This is certainly the most effective way to get others who face more serious sexual assaults in our society (your words) to come forward. I am a coach myself and I’m no snowflake. I get it…you want to defend the man. But these accusations need to be taken seriously and investigated. A woman has the right to determine the boundaries with regard to HER body. If she does not want a back rub from coach, so be it. Hands off! In some instances, speaking here as the relative of someone who was abused, this is how the grooming starts. Let these women be! Investigate. No need to rush to judgment – of the accuser AND the accused.

  13. A Real Victim on

    Coach Matt cried with me when I confided in him about my rape. He and Deb made sure I was getting the help I needed, and they still do. It is shameful this publication would seek to paint disgruntled athletes (who are just mad that they aren’t good) as victims, while tearing down a family and a program that has done far more good than anything.

  14. Universities should get out the athlete side of “education” and only have club and intramural sports.

    Universities should also get out of student lives and have them live off campus after the first year and not run social lives etc – free these young adults to associate with any social groups they would like to form.

    LU in particular has a weak and fragile professor group and what holds back its USNWR rankings are 2 things.1. poor student/teacher ratio and 2 low percentage of alumni making donations.

    LU’s D1 sports are a drain on the school’s budget. Student attendance is very low or zero at most sporting events, even football. The savings could be better spent on current and additional Profs and TAs. With a school truly committed to education, and showing good stewardship of tuition and endowments, maybe the alumni would be more inclined to donate.

  15. The decision to play a D1 sport in college is a huge one, made at a very young age. At this age, teenagers want freedom. Being on a team with endless commitments (dry periods, checking in with coaches all the time, watching our diets, taking tests on the road, etc) is a lot to handle. Perhaps, some athletes lack the maturity for this undertaking, and in turn lash out. Just as readers look at this article and consider what these girls said, they should also consider the fact that this could very well be jaded accounts of disgruntled athletes who would rather take down a good person than truly commit to the demands of the program.

  16. Many of the comments defending Coach Matt and sharing their positive experience, I am glad you recall him in a positive light. During my four years on the track and field team I had both positive and negative experiences with him. He has motivated me, given my good feedback, but had almost made inappropriate comments to both myself and my friends. To those who have not experience this, your lack of ability to understand that while YOUR experience was good that was not the experience of all shows your bias. Might I add, many defending Coach Matt we’re top performers, Patriot League champions, parents of Patriot League champions— also known as his “favorites” (a word Coach Matt once used himself while speaking of his athletes). I do not think Coach Matt had bad intentions in any of his actions, but they are inappropriate and they should change. I know this article was researched in depth and they interviewed various athletes. I commend the women who spoke out about these injustices. And to the commenters claiming these women are a bunch of “snowflakes” please take your misogynistic comments somewhere else.

  17. 2019 LUTF Grad on

    First of all, thank you to the women and men who had the courage to speak up. I could spend many hours responding to those negative comments but I unfortunately do not think they would be heard. It is very difficult to hear negativity surrounding someone you or your child had positive relationships with. As someone who worked closely with Matt, I also had a difficult time when I realized that he was not the man or the coach I had imagined he would be and that his actions DID make me uncomfortable. I encourage you to think about how difficult it was for these people to speak out. They did not simply complain to the Brown and White- they expressed their concerns to the coaching staff, they went to the sports physiologists, reached out to other coaches and administration in the athletics department and filed official complaints. NO ONE willingly risks being ostracized from their LU family just to “get revenge” on a coach. I am still a proud LUTF woman because I love my teammates and I know they are amazing and capable and because they stand up for what is right. The women who made the extremely difficult choice to contribute to this article did it because they too love their team and I stand beside them. We do not want any of our current and future LUTF sisters, minorities or anyone else to ever feel obliged to accept inappropriate actions by any member of the coaching staff or the team.

    I can guarantee that there are so many more athletes who have felt attacked and have yet to speak out. I hope that this article is the start of real change for my team. They are the best group of genuine, caring and hard working student athletes and they all deserve so much more.

  18. Steve Slotnick on

    Ben, are you saying the entire 2011 class didn’t give Matt Utesch a chance? That doesn’t make sense, people don’t seem to have issues with the other members of the coaching staff, just coach Matt and his inappropriate behavior. Also for what it’s worth, the burden should be on the coach not to take advantage of his position and make people uncomfortable.

    But I have to think at this point if the administration doesn’t act to remove him soon, recruiting is going to greatly suffer next year. Who wants to be part of a team lead by a coach who says racially insensitive comments, touches female athletes to the point they are uncomfortable, and generally seems to be strongly disliked by a large percentage of track and field alumni.

  19. First and foremost, let me say how proud I am of my daughter. She didn’t speak out because she wanted anything other than knowing that when she walked on the stage to graduate and receive her diploma, she could do so knowing that she had done all she could to help the athletes she left behind and for the future of LUTF. Let me tell you that her choice to share her story wasn’t done with malice or contempt, rather, it was done with pure love in her heart, love for her team, and love for Lehigh. This isn’t something that she took lightly and she truly struggled with coming forward, not because she didn’t think it was the right thing to do, but because she knew that it would require her putting herself on the line to speak her truth. She believed it was the right thing to do as a leader for a team she loved.

    To those parents and athletes who had four good years with Coach Matt, I am glad you did & I truly mean that. However, there are athletes who did not have the same wonderful experience, so please don’t assume anything – you do not know the full extent of what other athletes dealt with and you should be thankful you didn’t get calls home at the end of the day because of something uncomfortable or off-color that was said to your child or one of her teammates. You weren’t privy to the struggles she was facing internally – I was! Her struggles had nothing to do with being away from home or the stress of schoolwork – Coach Matt always seemed to be the common denominator. There were quite a few evenings when I would hang up the phone with her and immediately cry – and I wasn’t a few blocks away – I was miles and miles away. On several occasions we asked her to quit the team, but she loved her teammates so much that she wouldn’t. We told her we would go speak to the administration – she asked us not to. She said she would handle it in her own way, and she did! She went through all the proper channels in reporting to the administration throughout the semester.

    I can honestly say that my daughter loves her teammates, her assistant coaches, and the comradery between both the men’s and women’s teams – this is all in spite of Coach Matt. I pose these two questions to Coach Matt – (1) Would you feel differently if you found out that your daughter’s coaches said some of the things that you have said, or had smacked her in the butt with a stick, or had kicked her in the butt? I surmise that you would. (2) How would your children feel if their coach did or said any of this to her/him? – Please, in the future remember to think about that before you act.

    I know that my daughter and all the athletes who came forward will go on to do wonderful things with their lives. I know this because they have already proven that they are strong, brave, and resilient young women – and again, this is all in spite of Coach Matt.

    #ISTANDWITHMYDAUGHTER

  20. There are ways to recognize bias in a newspaper article. Sometimes, so-called “reporters”, “journalism majors” or “investigative editors” don’t even realize their work is biased. They might just do it by accident or because of their lack of effort with the research.
    So, while the editor of the article and his friends brag on social media about being proud of their work, I invite all of you to not jump to conclusions too quickly and to do the following. Read the whole article carefully and critically and pay attention to each and every word. Is the writer trying to influence your own judgment? Are the words informational or emotional? Look at the headlines and its neutrality. Ask yourself about the positive and negative effects of the article on people on both sides. Think about the audience and who’s going to read the article? Look at the sources and the tone of the writer(s).
    Well, I’ve done all of that and I came to the conclusion that this is definitely a biased article, intentionally addressed to a students’ population who will support it wholeheartedly and also to current and/or prospective parents who will now fear for their children’s safety and well being. But doing my own research and reading some of the comments on social media, it also seems that many positive sources and comments in favor of coach Utesch were dismissed and ignored for whatever reasons. Journalism majors???
    It’s too late anyway, because no matter what the outcome of this is, Matt’s reputation and character have been damaged forever because of a one-sided investigation and a poorly written article. I do not condone any alleged behavior if they really happened and respect the rights of anyone who has ever been harassed or been the victim of any kind of violence. However, we have to be careful with words because they have a lot of power and misusing them could be disrespectful and undermining to the real victims of sexual assault and harassment. The problem is that the definition of harassment does not leave any room for common sense. You find abuse of power and violence next to jokes and comments.
    I have known coach Utesch for 30 years. He’s a family man, a man of faith and a man of great integrity and strong values. He’s a great coach and teacher, a great husband, a great father and a great friend.
    He’s also brutally honest and have high expectations for you, for his staff and for himself. That might be where the problem lies. He’s being paid to run a successful D1 program and to build generations of strong student-athletes who will be tomorrow’s leaders. Maybe not everybody can handle the truth about their own abilities or the demands of being a D1 athlete. It’s not about “favorites”, it’s about performance. While coaches have to deal with anonymous end of year feedback, they also have to meet with their administrators to talk about the program’s direction and success.
    I will also admit that Matt can have a strong sense of humor and his sarcasm can often be misinterpreted or misconstrued. Not an excuse but unless you’re in the same age group as Matt, not many people can now understand metaphor, word-play, or a witty remark as humor. Especially when it’s reported out of context by amateurs. It’s also 2019 and data show that 98% of offended people feel that their day is not complete unless they have found something to be offended by.
    Social media is now on fire with Monday morning prosecutors from all over Lehigh nation, blindly condemning the guy without even knowing him or the whys and wherefores of the story but having no problem comparing it to Dr. Novak’s story. Really? I fully respect and believe the athletes who felt uncomfortable, embarrassed or even humiliated at times but I will ask everybody to be more reserved in their comments. There are always three sides of a story but only one is the truth.
    We all know that you’re always the greatest teacher as long as your students get an A on their exam and you’re always the greatest coach as long as your athletes start, compete and are successful. Once they feel that they’re not as good as others and don’t contribute, once they get suspended or cut for breaking team rules, once their work ethic goes down, they need an excuse or a scapegoat. How many phone calls did Coach Utesch have to do in the middle of the night to explain to parents the poor decisions their kids had made and to reassure them that he, and his wife, had their back and that they would take care of them?
    I know he will work hard to tone down his comments and to better monitor his actions around student-athletes but I would expect all the sensitive minds and their bandwagon jumpers friends to be very careful with their words. Many coaches had their career and life ruined after allegations that ended up being very questionable if not false. Let’s get this one right.

  21. Vinny Polignano on

    Coach Matt and Deb (and the entire coaching staff) pour their heart and souls into the track program at Lehigh. I have experienced their love and compassion first hand, and my choice of college/team is reaffirmed every day. Through their cultivating of an incomparable support system, I have been made to feel valued and appreciated.

    Echoing comments of my teammates, I would never seek to discredit or disqualify the feelings of anyone who chooses to “go public” with their stories. However, I know first-hand that many athletes do not make it known when they feel undermined or uncomfortable. Different tolerances exist and must be explicated to be properly respected. Ever-seeking to prepare us for the real world, and genuinely interested in our thoughts and feelings, Coach Matt does not shy away from the discussion of sensitive topics. Discussions on such topics, race, politics, etc. are easily be misconstrued and misrepresented.

    Coach Matt has been reaching out to members of the team for months. He’s asked what he can change and the specific behaviors of his that cultivate (for some) this negative perception of himself. He is determined to adjust his practices to better accommodate ALL of his athletes. I am confident he will be successful in making whatever adjustments are requested by my fellow team members.

    I contacted the reporter the reporter of this article (Jordan Wolman) and offered my story and interpretation. It was obvious to me that he had already chosen the tone and direction of the article. It was not apt to change (despite additions of information and contextualization). I found him to be unprofessional and focused on scoring a notable publication. He discussed how he was bent on publishing despite concerns from the adult advisor of the Brown & White, who urged him to dig deeper and find more varied sources. I think it is disgraceful that a so obviously one sided article was allowed to be published by a “respectable” institutions newspaper. Coach Matt has coached hundreds of athletes over a 2 decade career, but the voices of only a handful were included. Shoddy journalism.

    • I’m very confused as to how you, a freshmen now going on sophomore could offer any contextualization for this article when you weren’t present for most of the claims in the article. Just because you asked to speak to them does not mean they have to use every word you give them especially if it were reiterated. Do you honestly think they used every word the girls , coach , or parent said to them? Do you honestly think they used the words of every single person that had something bad to say about Matt? You probably do think that but then you’d be wrong. Before you call it pour journalism why don’t you just consider that maybe what you had to offer wasn’t relevant or maybe even a replica of the words they were already going to use or maybe they were trying to make Matt look a little more credible with the opinion of athletes that have spent more time with him than just one year. Clearly they got the views of pro Matt people which were in fact multiple year athletes. It sounds to me like whatever your interpretation of Matt had to offer was irrelevant to the article.

      I also find it very interesting how you say you aren’t trying to discredit what has been said by your teammates but yet you are trying to say things “can be” misconstrued or taken out of context? Just because you dance around the word play of basically saying you believe things were misconstrued or taken out of context I urge you to consider, were you there when any of these incidences happened? were you even on the lehigh track and field team yet?

      Furthermore, just because you know “many” athletes don’t make it known what is your excuse then for the ones who do? I know I’ve heard many make it known they don’t want to be touched in many ways and his response has either taken a full year to understand not to touch them or expressed he’s working to be able to hug them because that’s what he wants. Or how about when someone says please don’t touch me and he says “get used to it”. Personally, no matter the context that should never be the response to a simple request nor would it ever be funny in any manner.

      I’m sure its very hard for someone like you to read this article about someone who has made you feel so great and valued, but he doesn’t make everyone feel that way and it is clear he does the opposite to more than just the people in this article. I will say though I truly hope you still feel this way after your 4th and maybe final year at Lehigh.

  22. Read FB1’s comment thoroughly on

    FB1 – That comment hit three nail on the head. If anyone is going to read any comment on here… read that one. So incredibly poised and well-said.

    • Ignorance is bliss on

      I read FB1s comment carefully and noted that Coach Matt is “being paid to run a successful D1 program” He has been there for around 25 years? Correct? How many Patriot League titles does he have? Zero? Correct?How many All Americans does he have? Maybe 3? Is that what we call successful? No ma’am that ain’t it.

      • This comment is more off color than many of the ones mentioned in the article. It’s an absolute joke to insinuate that an underfunded program from a small private school that has produces 3 All Americans and numerous NCAA qualifiers from non-blue chip recruits is not successful. Anyone that’s been on the team knows that this is a developmental program and it is quite good at that. You would be hard pressed to find anyone that didn’t PR in college that bought into the coaches’ programs. It’s a shame that so many people are resorting to attacking things that aren’t relevant to the actually serious issue at hand. This is an insult not only to Coach Matt but to the many other accomplished coaches, trainers, and athletes that worked every day to help themselves or their athletes reach their maximum potential.

      • Robert F Davenport Jr on

        Many of those who have commented would probably disagree. Lafayette fans and track athletes might also consider the program successful.

  23. Lisa and Jim Wardle on

    During the four years that our daughter was a member of LUTF, we served for two of those years as the team parents for the program and would like to share our perspective. Track is unusual in that, it’s a team sport but athletes compete individually, and those athletes involved in throwing events for instance, might have little chance to interact with those competing in the jumping events. In order to promote collaboration and teamwork, the coaching staff launched the team parent initiative. Through this, Coaches Matt and Deb Utesch endeavored to create an environment that encourages all participants to congregate and “break bread” with post-meet food feasts. It is an opportunity for the athletes, coaches, and parents to come together following track meets in a relaxed atmosphere. After a long day of competing, the athletes are always happy to share that time together as a team, make jokes, eat, and talk with the parents. During our daughter’s athletic career, we traveled to other PL schools and never once did we witness the camaraderie that was woven into the LU track team.

    It is important to recognize that within the sport of track and field, each coach has a specialty (distance, throws, jumps, etc.) and therefore, a distance coach might have little interaction with a sprinter. Coach Matt’s expertise is the jumps and multi-events. Could it be that the perception that he played favorites was simply based on the fact that he spent more time coaching the events for which he was the most knowledgeable? On a team that numbered 100+ athletes, how realistic is it to expect that he would spend time with each athlete? Finally, wouldn’t athletes prefer to be coached by the individual who has the expertise in their event?

    Being able to inspire and get the best out of athletes requires a certain skill in understanding the individual and any coach would admit that developing a student athlete is not for the faint of heart. Each athlete possesses a unique mindset with varied strengths and frailties. It is conceivable that a robot could do the job of organizing the multi-layers involved in a track meet in terms of scheduling; however, motivating athletes and helping them through the struggles of early adulthood, requires something else entirely. Interacting with others is a nuanced affair, and words that seem innocuous or said within a certain context can carry a different charge when selectively quoted. There is a reason why witness testimony is notoriously unreliable. We all witness events through our own prism.

    In closing, Coach Matt prepares student athletes to take on their futures with vigor, humor, faith, respect, and morality. Throughout our experience with Matt, Deb, and the coaching staff, we remained confident that our daughter was in very good hands with the LUTF family, and with Coach Matt as her primary coach, we were doubly convinced that as a member of the team she’d continue to develop with the values that we shared with the staff. Nothing has changed this belief and our confidence continues in the LUTF program. We would ask some of the commenters who are so quick to act as judge and jury to examine their own behaviors and words. Have we reached a stage that we are not allowed to learn or grow from experiences? Competing in sports is an opportunity for students to learn so much about themselves— pride in reaching a goal, humility in facing defeat, learning from mistakes and finding the essence of who we are. Coach Matt’s apology to the team reflects the full spectrum of a person who through self-evaluation will listen and grow from this experience. His ethos is one that exemplifies his belief that we all must continue to be better; on the track—and in life.

    • Another annoyed LUTF athlete on

      Once again, this comment displays utter ignorance of what was happening on the LUTF team. Yes you’re correct by stating that athletes want to be coached by someone with expertise in their event. Obviously you lack the insight that this past year, Matt DID coach the throwing events, javelin in specific, despite obviously lacking any experience or knowledge. Those two javelin throwers who spoke on record in the article spent a great amount of time with Matt this past year. They were trained by him daily, met with him outside of practice in an attempt to resolve communication issues, and were coached by him at competitions. So incase it isn’t clear, THEY KNOW MATT rather well. In addition to that, many of these comments are making claims about the “favorites” on the team and how the “commitment it takes to be a D1 athlete isn’t understood” yet one of the athletes who spoke was Patriot League medalist as a freshman and on the top 10 list that Matt is being boosted for. She clearly understand the commitment and is working to be a successful athlete. Not to even mention the girl who got cut from the team was a 2 time NCAA qualifier amongst many other accomplishments. Again, another invalid argument made by people who do not know a damn thing.

    • Shame on you both. Your daughter was a star athlete on the team so 1) obviously Coach Matt buttered you up and 2) you don’t care about anyone else on the team. Put yourself in the shoes of the parents who’s daughters were violated by this man. The parents of the athletes who had to shake off his unnecessary and insulting comments. The parents of the athletes who felt they couldn’t say anything because he turned it around and made himself the victim. You would be furious and want something done. As well as the copious amount of people who can agree that this is how he truly acts and should be removed.

      He hasn’t learned from his mistakes, there are alumni from decades ago commenting on his behavior. And he certainly hasn’t grown from his experiences, with this 2019 article as proof. A grown man who acts like this…and nothing but his actions have gotten him to this point. Are there worse coaches? Absolutely, he’s no Sandusky, but this is unacceptable behavior nonetheless, and you’re so closed minded by your daughter’s success and Coach Matt’s humor that you can’t even fathom MANY people believe he’s just not a good person. His apology to the team reflects nothing but the fact that he got caught. If anyone needs to work on themselves, it’s Matt Utesch.

      • Amy Charles ‘89 on

        Good luck — these parents are poster children for the My Son Is A Good Boy And Would Never movement. Everything’s about their own reputation, and you have to give everything in their lives a round of golf applause or you’re somehow attacking them.

        Lisa: look, you gave money and lots of big smiles to a creep. Happens to the best of us. They don’t come with “creep” tattooed on them, usually. It’s why armies have to wear uniforms — even they can’t tell goodies and baddies apart otherwise.

  24. A fellow Christian on

    One can’t help but notice that all of the comments praising Coach Utesch speak about how he is a man of faith but just ignore that he forced many people on the team to go to church with him. There were handfuls of athletes on the team who were very open about how they do not believe in god or practice any religion and Coach Utesch took it upon himself to interrogate them on van rides, (after athletes saying they’d prefer not to talk about it) make girls meet with people of his church to speak about what he diagnosed as “”””alcoholism””””, etc etc the list can go on and on. He is a coach. Not a missionary. He was not hired to shove his beliefs down everyone’s throats and make them feel degraded for not praising the same thing he does.

  25. Can someone please explain to me what Matt Utesch being a family man has to do with him making racist comments and being rude and specializing young women? I don’t think these are mutually exclusive things but maybe I’m wrong.

  26. An LU throws alumni on

    Why are we forgetting to mention that he hired someone to take over a very talented group of athletes despite her lacking a certification to weight train them. NCAA violation? Check. Athletes getting injured? Check. Blatant error in judgement and a selfish thing to do considering he knew of her toxicity while an athlete on the team.

  27. Current LUTF athlete on

    As a current LUTF athlete, it truly saddens me to see some of these comments coming from people who will never fully understand the extend to which these comments and actions affect female athletes. Personally, I have never felt so belittled by a coach, considering the amount of obvious favoritism that is portrayed throughout the team. I do not think that anyone can possibly imagine the emotional stress put on LUTF female athletes unless they are on the team and experience these remarks first hand. I chose to continue track and field in college because of the passion I have for the sport, but I never thought I would start to dread going to practice and begin hating something I once loved all because of the environment the coach creates. I have heard many inappropriate comments come from Coach Matt, therefore I have distanced myself from him which directly affects the relationship we have. Many athletes already feel uncomfortable around him due to previous stories, which is why I think many females on the team do not have this close-knit relationship with him like some of his “favorites” do. This past season I have lost the motivation to compete and have felt oppressed and discouraged due to the lack of attention and instruction at practices and competitions. For those complaining about the one-sidedness shown through this article, the point was to bring light to the situation that has been so dark for so long. Women nowadays are more worried about the backlash for sticking up for themselves than they are about self care. These comments go to prove that point exactly. I guarantee that more than just one event group has been affected by the comments and actions of Coach Matt and my teammates would not be continuing to fight unless we believed that what is happening is unacceptable. Speaking from personal experience, my athletic accomplishments have been used to raise up Coach Matt’s “favorites” on the team. I can also speak on behalf of my teammates by saying that this issue is NOT just within one specific event group. I could go on and on about how wrong this situation is, but I would only get shamed for speaking out, just as these BRAVE women have.

  28. Kristin Slotnick on

    As a 2013 Lehigh graduate, and former track captain, I am ashamed that I did not speak up more about the negative impact that our head coach had on several athletes (including myself) over the years.

    There are countless times I felt extremely uncomfortable about his racist and sexist remarks and actions. As a freshman, I was looking forward to creating a relationship with my new Coach. As mentioned in several of the comments above, Matt Utesch does have some good qualities. Unfortunately, these qualities were quickly overshadowed by his offensive comments and behavior which were often hidden behind what he called “jokes”.

    To make things worse, whenever Coach Utesch was confronted he would try to make himself into the victim. He would use his position of power to make you feel like you were in the wrong for trying to bring up any feedback.

    It did not help that Lehigh’s athletic leadership team did not acknowledge our complaints submitted via our annual review. This is a separate concern but an equally important conversation.

    I know it is hard for athletes that had a wonderful relationship with Coach Utesch to read this but the truth is he negatively impacted many members of the Lehigh T&F family. I do not want to blemish your relationship and memories but please do take into consideration that some of your teammates did not share the same experience.

    Thank you to the team that did have the courage and determination to speak up. Here’s to hoping this is the last time any Lehigh atheletes have to go through this.

  29. You’re delusional if you think this man is an angel. No coach should be touching any girls butt, not with his hand and not with any object. Period. I was on the team and even since I was a freshman have heard older alumni say negative things about him. It was embedded in my brain at the very first practice and I wondered why. As time passed I’ve even grown to dislike him, and just distanced myself because he’s closed minded and stubborn. People don’t just go around randomly disliking someone, that someone has to cause said dislike.

    He has been disrespectful, presumptuous, inappropriate, and flat out degrading for a very long time. He only tries to be nice and funny to people if he thinks they’re attractive or if he wants something from them. Hence why parents love him because that’s who he sucks up to the most for their recruited children. He has zero regard for mental health and mocks people with depression and anxiety, and on top of that he tries to enforce his religion onto us. In my 4 years there we had to take time out of practice for not one but TWO meetings from his Catholic friends/alumni trying to impose God on us. You don’t see other coaches bringing in Hindu alumni or Jewish alumni trying to persuade their athletes to switch. He is utterly unprofessional and the fact that so many people have quit the team shows how poorly he’s doing leading it.

    Not to mention he changes up the team motto every year and hasn’t brought home a single trophy. With all these allegations on top of how many people believe how scummy he is from experience, at the very least this man does not deserve to be head coach. His actions completely contrast what a head coach should embody and Lehigh should be ashamed for keeping him this long. It’s time for change in LUTF.

  30. Interesting comments. Here are mine.

    It appears that:

    -many of you could use some God in your life;

    -the LU coaching staff is inclusive, since the team is comprised of many who should be in D3;

    -according to the article, the coach acknowledged and then apologized.

    What are you seeking?

    What decent coach would ever want to be in same room with you creeps?

  31. I would be lying if I said I don’t still love track and love being on the LUTF team. However, the positive experience I am referring to is not thanks to Coach Matt. Growing up, I had always valued having a close relationship with my coaches, which is something I prioritized when choosing a college. After meeting Coach Matt my senior year of high school, I was sure Lehigh would provide me with that. He was great, funny, and instantly made me feel welcome. My views of him changed a little bit once I got to campus in the fall and felt like I was being ignored and constantly intimidated by him. I remember calling my high school coach after my first college meet in tears because of the lack of relationship I had with Coach Matt. There were some meets he didn’t even acknowledge how I had done or wished me luck. I felt like I had to earn his time and attention, and felt weird asking him to coach me. At first, I continued to give coach Matt the benefit of the doubt. I would tell myself he was the head coach and he was busy and that he didn’t mean it. Then he would, every now and then, say one thing to make me feel good about myself and manipulate me into forgetting about all the other ways I was feeling. By the time I was older, after years of being called the wrong name and him not knowing, or seeming to care how those who weren’t favorites performed, I felt like I was in a good position to say something. I asked him if we could get feedback after competitions. A simple request from an athlete of their coach. He went on to tell me exactly how many events he coaches, how many athletes, and how busy he is. He made me feel bad for asking him to do his job. I’m lucky to have such amazing teammates to talk to about my concerns, only to find out they felt neglected, disappointed, and manipulated by Coach Matt as a coach, too. It definitely helped to find that we weren’t alone, but also made the problem more apparent. We would bond and joke about being blatantly walked away from and athletically ignored and how awful it felt. I don’t know if I would have survived without my teammates. There is so much more I could say about coach Matt but it wouldn’t do my disappointment and frustration justice. I feel tricked by the man I met when I was being recruited and robbed of reaching my full athletic potential.

  32. Former LUTF Jumper on

    I personally had a great experience with Coach Matt. He was extremely supportive of me and never gave up in my abilities. I really enjoyed his personality and his sense of humor. And I understand that not everyone had the same positive experience as I did.

    I think it needs to be clear how he interacts with the team. A lot of the “vulgar” comments people are referring to are things that athletes say to each other all the time. Coach Matt often tries to have relationships with athletes that resemble a friend or peer mentor. He is a coach, but he also wants to be close friends, and often lifelong friends, with the athletes. And for some people, like myself, that really really works. For other people they’d rather a very professional, formal coach- and that’s fine too! I also understand that it’s difficult to know all 150 athletes’ preferences on how they want to relate to their coach.

    Some of his actions were definitely inappropriate in timing or in the audience he was speaking to, and it’s a great first step that he apologized to the people he upset. I think saying or doing those things with an athlete that he has a friend-like relationship with would have had a different context and different outcome.

    • Amy Charles ‘89 on

      “It’s normal for coaches to be misogynist, racist bros, so, like, cut a bro some slack” is not a defense. What’s wrong with you?

  33. Is there an update on this situation? The athletes are back on campus and all should be starting regularly scheduled practices soon right?

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