LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – An investigation of the University of Kentucky cheer program by the school’s Office of Internal Audit, found the organizational structure and decision making within the cheer team potentially allowed for the “personal enrichment” of then head coach Jomo Thompson, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Thompson had no comment on the audit’s findings when contacted Thursday by the Lexington Herald-Leader, according to the report.
Thompson and three of his assistants were fired by the university in the spring and the team’s advisor, retired.
The moves came after a university disciplinary investigation that said some UK cheerleaders took part in hazing, alcohol use and public nudity and that the coaching staff knew or reasonably should have known about the team’s conduct and didn’t take sufficient steps to address the conduct after learning about it.
Following his firing, numerous current and former cheerleaders publicly came out in support of Thompson and refuted the findings of the school’s investigation. Thompson himself released a statement in May that said he didn’t agree with the manner in which his relationship with UK came to an end.
The school’s internal review of the cheer team’s finances showed Thompson owned or was a shareholder in two businesses that he regularly used for unofficial UK cheerleading activities or further his financial interests, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
One example was Central Elite Kentucky, a gym in Lexington where UK cheerleading held practices. The gym was jointly purchased by Thompson and a relative of one of the squad’s assistant coaches, according to the newspaper report. Thompson and the squad’s director of operations directed students and potential cheerleaders to receive training at the gym and the facility hired two of the squad’s assistant coaches to manage the gym, according to the report.
The internal audit also found the cheer team and the school’s logo were used for the financial gain of some former cheerleaders without UK’s prior approval, according to the report.
The UK logo and cheerleading brand were used to promote cheerleading camps held by the Cheer Experts, which is owned by a former UK cheerleader. Thompson and active squad cheerleaders worked at the camps, according to the newspaper report.
The cheer program also spent more than $8,000 on t-shirts over a three-year period with two unnamed companies owned by a former UK cheerleader, which was not previously disclosed, according to the newspaper’s report of the audit.
After the cheer program scandal became public, the team was moved under more direct supervision of the athletics department.
Former UK cheerleader Ryan Martin O’ Connor was hired in June as the program’s new head coach. The program has won 24 national championships.