The University of Victoria’s Department of Athletics and Recreation has announced the resignation of the head coach of the Women’s Rowing Program.
The university says that coach Barney Williams has resigned from his position “by mutual agreement” with the program, effective April 18.
Williams had come under fire over the past few years from student-athletes in the program over allegations of abuse and harassment.
In November of 2019, the UVic program made headlines after four athletes and an assistant coach filed complaints with the university and Rowing Canada, including claims Williams cornered people in a small training room.
Last summer, a former member of the University of Victoria’s varsity women’s rowing team also sued the head coach and the university over allegations of demeaning and aggressive treatment. A statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on July 3, 2020 alleges Lily Copeland was subjected to offensive and belittling language and “fat-shaming” by Williams while she was a coxswain with the team during the 2018-2019 season.
Both Williams and the university have denied these claims in court documents and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
“Both the department and Williams have determined it’s in the best interest of the rowing program for him to step away from his position as women’s rowing head coach so that the circumstances associated with the 2018/19 season are not a continuing distraction for the program,” reads a statement from the Department of Athletics.
UVic outlines that the rowing coach joined the school’s program in 2018 and coached the women’s team for three seasons
“Our main focus at this moment is squarely on the student-athletes. We recognize that this was difficult and unexpected news for them. We are committed to continuing to provide the student-athletes and other members of the team the necessary support and resources to focus on their health, safety, and academic achievement and to begin preparation for the seasons to come,” said Director of Varsity Performance Sport, Nick Clarke.
In a release issued on Monday, the university acknowledged that Williams has had some “significant personal challenges” over the past three years as well and will be taking this time to support his family.