Student-athletes accuse Ohio Dominican volleyball coach of abusive behavior

Local News

You expect a collegiate coach to push their athletes, but how far is too far? A group of former and current Ohio Dominican University volleyball players said their coach pushed their limits to the extreme of abuse. The university said an investigation found no evidence to substantiate their claims.

Ten current and former Ohio Dominican University volleyball players accuse Head Coach Jennifer Fekpe of abuse, harassment, retaliation, and of doling out excessive punishments and belittling criticism. The university said the coach did nothing illegal and no changes will be made to the program.

Being a student-athlete on the collegiate level can be grueling. Former Ohio Dominican University volleyball player Leah Howser said it shouldn’t be terrifying.

“I have absolutely nothing to lose and absolutely nothing to gain because I’ve gotten out. I don’t plan on playing college volleyball anymore,” said Howser.

In October, the 10 current and former players submitted a 45-page legal document of formal complaints accusing Fekpe of alleged mental, physical, emotional abuse and NCAA violations.

“She doesn’t really care about the well-being of her players,” said Howser. “Definitely manipulative. She’s kind of like conniving in a way,” she said. 

In one particular instance, Howser said the head coach forced her to do a grueling running drill as punishment despite having multiple stress fractures in her back.

“I was like well what am I supposed to do? I have doctors orders to not participate and she was like well I guess you’re just going to have to speed walk them.” 

Just a few months into her freshman year, Howser quit the team and left school.

The university declined to go on camera. We received the following statement from the university:

The safety and security of our students is our top priority at Ohio Dominican University. After looking into the concerns voiced by this group of student-athletes, we were not able to substantiate the allegations made of illegal conduct. What these players’ parents are asking us to do is to ignore the grievance process that is outlined in our Student Athlete Handbook and suspend or terminate the coach with inadequate cause. The Handbook is designed to ensure due process, full disclosure and fair treatment for all parties involved, and the students agreed to abide by this process when they joined the program. With that said, we understand that certain members of our women’s volleyball team are dissatisfied with their recent experiences, and we will take the concerns they’ve bravely shared into account as we seek to continuously improve all aspects of the student experience at Ohio Dominican University.

Howser said she doesn’t want another student-athlete to suffer. “It might not be illegal, but it’s definitely not a safe environment for these young girls,” said Howser. “I don’t want these girls to be put through what we have been through.” 

According to the university, Fekpe has been head coach for three years and with the team for six. We reached out to Fekpe for comment, but had not received a response by the time our story aired.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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