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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Adrienne Rogers (LPN) and Tracy McConnell (RN) on the Victoria Hospice Unit. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Hospice)
Victoria Hospice bereavement counsellors dealing with a tsunami of grief

Last year, Victoria Hospice provided end-of-life care to more than 1,000 people

Paddles sit stacked and ready at a rowing regatta on Elk Lake in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria junior girls rowing team nabs first in national Row to Tokyo challenge

Young Victoria City Rowing Club members row more than 2,250 km

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Funding boosts restoration efforts for Vancouver Island’s Garry oak ecosystems

Habitat Acquisition Trust will take on several Garry oak ecosystem restoration projects

A Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Most Read