University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

The University of Victoria says the head coach of its women’s rowing program has resigned effective immediately.

In a statement posted Monday on the school’s varsity athletics website, it says the decision was reached by mutual agreement as Barney Williams and the athletic department determined it was in the best interest of the program so that “the circumstances associated with the 2018-19 season are not a continuing distraction.”

A member of that team filed a lawsuit last summer accusing Williams of demeaning treatment amounting to verbal abuse.

The lawsuit alleges that Lily Copeland suffered injuries including stress-induced physiological symptoms and lost self-esteem, while also claiming that the university failed to provide her with a safe environment for learning and training.

READ MORE: UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Williams and the university deny the allegations in a statement of defence, saying the training environment was not hostile and communication was always professional.

None of the allegations or statements have been proven in court.

In its statement Monday, the university says Williams has also had “some significant personal challenges” over the past three years and will take time to support his family.

“Our main focus at this moment is squarely on the student-athletes,” said Nick Clarke, director of varsity performance sport.

“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.”

In their response to Copeland’s lawsuit, the defendants say the training was “competitive and rigorous intended to foster the athletic abilities” of Copeland and the other coxswain.

They say Williams’s communication with Copeland was “respectful and appropriate for team coaching designed to maximize performance.”

Copeland’s statement of claim filed in British Columbia Supreme Court alleges Williams would berate her inside a locked storage structure known as the “sauna,” standing close to her and speaking aggressively.

But the statement of defence denies the allegations.

“At no time did Williams ever have a meeting with (Copeland) in any locked room, including the sauna,” says the response, filed in November.

ALSO READ: UVic, rowing coach sued over alleged ‘fat shaming’ and verbal abuse

“While Williams would have debriefing meetings with (Copeland) and others,” occasionally in the sauna, “they were always professional, objective, and constructive intended to provide feedback,” it states.

“The door is often kept closed to retain heat … but other athletes and coaches would regularly enter the room at any time.”

Copeland alleges in her lawsuit filed last July that she was often late or missed academic classes as a result of the so-called “sauna episodes.”

The lawsuit alleges the university failed to train or supervise Williams properly, didn’t adopt appropriate coaching standards for varsity athletes or take adequate steps when Copeland complained informally to the associate director of sport in October 2018. She later made a formal complaint through the university’s equity and human rights office.

The school hired an adjudicator who found the coach’s behaviour did not breach the campus discrimination and harassment policy.

The university has since implemented a professional code for coaches and added various resources to support student-athletes. It also hired a director of varsity performance sport last fall to oversee varsity athletics “with a clear focus on safe sport,” it said in an update posted online in December.

Rowing Canada is also conducting an investigation into Williams.

The Canadian Press

ALSO READ: More rowers come forward with complaints about coach, criticism of UVic


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

UVic

Just Posted

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

The Sparwood Golf Club received $1,206.12 for a lighting project as part of its wider renewal efforts. (Image contributed by Columbia Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies)
CFKR allocates over $11,000 to Elk Valley community programs

Over $50,000 was dished out between the communities of the Kootenay Rockies

RDEK is calling for nominations for their Volunteer of the Year award in all six electoral districts.
RDEK posts operating surplus as pandemic reduces costs

The RDEK has posted an operational surplus of $8 million as local… Continue reading

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Fernie Ghostriders head coach Jeff Wagner has committed to two more years with the team. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press
Fernie Ghostriders coach departs: Wagner moves to Coquitlam

Jeff Wagner will move to the Lower Mainland as associate coach and director of scouting with the Coquitlam Express

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from "F9." (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present seven-year-old Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
7-year old Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery for rescuing child at beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Most Read