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The lack of transparency and the failure of the University of Toledo and the US Center for SafeSport to complete investigations into a sexual assault allegation against women’s soccer coach Brad Evans opened the door for him to continue coaching girls and young women, according to people with knowledge of how Evans was hired for later jobs.
As previously revealed by The Guardian, Evans was allowed to resign as the leader of a successful women’s soccer program at the University of Toledo in 2015. At the time, the resignation alluded to an “inappropriate relationship” with a co-worker. , even though the university was aware of concerns raised by players and families, including an allegation of sexual assault.
The university ended its investigation into those claims when he resigned, meaning the claims by former employees effectively disappeared. Evans has never faced criminal charges for the allegations.
Following his departure from Toledo, Evans was subsequently hired to hold senior positions with the Northern Ohio Youth Soccer Association and the International Soccer Club, a regional youth soccer powerhouse based near Cleveland, Ohio.
Keri Sarver, director of training for the Internationals Soccer Club, hired Evans for a coaching position with the team in 2020. She told The Guardian she was unaware of the allegations against him in Toledo. “I was aware that he had resigned from the University of Toledo due to an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker and that is all I know,” she said.
“I was told it was a relationship with an adult co-worker and from that perspective it was a personal matter between him and his wife and his family and his employer. At that point, that’s all he knew and at that point that’s where he started and ended.”
Sarver also currently serves as an assistant coach on the New Zealand women’s national team preparing for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. She has an extensive resume that includes working as a scout for the United States Soccer Federation’s national youth teams. United States and as an assistant coach for the USWNT U-18 youth team.
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“We can only continue with what we knew at the time,” Sarver said. “We followed all the processes, a criminal background check, and there were no red flags. Every coach we hire or who works with our teams receives SafeSport training every year, so you checked all those boxes. I acted on what I knew at the time to be true.”
Related: ‘He Shattered My World’: An Ohio Football Coach, Sexual Misconduct, and the System That Has Protected Him
However, Sarver’s pragmatic view is not shared by some parents within the soccer community. After The Guardian revealed the allegations against Evans in July, a publicly available Facebook post highlighted how the lack of transparency surrounding Evans’ departure from the University of Toledo affected the youth soccer community. “Brad was my daughter’s club manager for a couple of years. He made her feel so uncomfortable. He almost quit soccer because of her. Many of his classmates did. We knew why he left UT and couldn’t understand why he was hired as the club’s coach,” the post read.
Following his departure from the University of Toledo in 2015, Evans was recruited by the Northern Ohio Youth Soccer Association for roles that included leading their Olympic Development Program. A person familiar with the hiring process told The Guardian: “To this day, I’m surprised that guy is back in football.”
“There were things that weren’t done right at Ohio North that led to him being hired,” said the individual, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional and personal repercussions within the American soccer community.
“Hell yeah, [his behavior] was well known at the time. They knew. Everyone on that board knew about his past. It was basically, yeah, we know it, we like it, the stories aren’t true, they’re just college kids making up stories. I am ashamed of them.”
The individual added: “It was not a consensus of the board to hire him. There were a couple of guys on the Ohio North board who were absolutely against it, but their voices didn’t matter.”
Tom Turner was the director of coaching for the Ohio Youth Soccer Association North at the time of Evans’ hiring and is believed to have been the driving force behind the hire according to multiple sources. Turner is currently listed as the director of membership growth and development for the Ohio Soccer Association. Turner did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Guardian by email and phone.
The Ohio Youth Soccer Association North became the Ohio Soccer Association (OSA) in 2021. Evans continued to lead the state’s Olympic Development Program and US Soccer’s coach education programs until The Guardian revealed allegations of abuse by six women.
“We were not aware of the allegations nor were we aware of the hiring practices of other companies or organizations,” OSA Executive Director Gordon Henderson said in an email to The Guardian.
The OSA has since removed any mention of Evans from its website and says the allegations now fall under the jurisdiction of the US Center for SafeSport. Henderson said Evans’ employment with the organization ended on July 29, 2022, a few weeks after the Guardian report was published.
“The University of Toledo knew [about his behavior] and they allowed him to quit and pretend it didn’t happen,” says Michelle Sandor, who played with Evans at Ashfield University in Ohio from 1996 to 2000.
Today, Sandor is a high school football coach and says she has avoided attending practice events Evans was scheduled to attend.
“[Toledo] they were putting all these other women in danger,” Sandor said. “Then the Ohio Football Association hired him knowing that he had to resign because of his conduct. He’s not such an amazing trainer that you can’t find another one. That you are going to hire someone who [allegedly] abused women instead of finding the next best trainer? It’s terrible.”
The US Center for SafeSport, an organization created in 2017 to investigate and highlight issues related to sexual abuse and other misconduct in Olympic and Paralympic sports, also received a report about Evans’ behavior in 2019, but did not conducted an investigation.
That report, from former University of Toledo assistant coach Candice Fabry, alleged a sexual assault by Evans that had previously been reported to the university. Fabry’s report resulted in multiple email exchanges and two conversations with investigators and Fabry was asked to collect information on other potential victims on behalf of SafeSport and to forward any details to the organization. Although SafeSport knew of an allegation against Evans, the agency did not investigate it at the time.
Related: ‘I Told Them’: How Multiple Systems Failed When Toledo Coach’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct Was Reported
“SafeSport knew [in 2019] what I reported to Toledo and how Toledo did not tell the truth when he resigned,” Fabry said. “That is the most frustrating thing, my story was not enough, they always asked me to go see if I could convince others to step forward so that an investigation really takes place, and then, two bodies capable of investigating and fulfilling consequences: Toledo and SafeSport. – I did nothing. They knew I was walking and it was up to me to get enough people to show up to do something.”
The Guardian made multiple requests for comment to the US Center for SafeSport and through a public relations firm based in Washington DC. After multiple exchanges of text messages and emails, the US Center for SafeSport did not provide any information or a spokesperson to The Guardian.
According to its website, “The SafeSport Licensing and Sexual Assault Youth Protection Act of 2017 codified the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, as the organization of safe sport in the nation. The 2017 law gives SafeSport the authority to resolve allegations of abuse and misconduct throughout the US Olympic and Paralympic Movement, including soccer. The Center is funded by a $20 million annual contribution from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Some of that funding comes from sports governing bodies that pay fees, actually a form of fine, based on the number of complaints reported to the Center. center.
A 2022 ABC News investigation of the Center for Safe Sport in America found that the “system has allowed suspected serial abusers to return to their sports with little or no public warning, undermining the faith of some athletes.” and its advocates in the work of the center, which in turn threatens the center’s ability to function effectively.”
The US Center for SafeSport can prohibit and suspend individuals from participating in a sport under the USOPC umbrella. Those people are listed in its centralized disciplinary database. Although Evans did not face sanctions when the US Center for SafeSport first received a report of his alleged behavior in 2019, he was subsequently listed with a “temporary suspension” on July 11, 2022, following the Guardian investigation.
“Could there be more support and more tools in incidents like this and shed light on it?” Sarver said. “I think the answer is yes.”
Added the individual familiar with how Evans was signed by the Ohio Youth Soccer Association North in 2017: “I’m sad for those girls. [at Toledo]. It makes me sad that a college let that happen, kept letting that happen, fired him, but Ohio North football said, ‘That’s okay. Go back to Ohio.’”
Brad Evans did not respond to multiple interview requests or email questions about specific allegations about his time with Toledo. He provided a statement to The Guardian about his leaving the university.
“In 2015 I was asked to answer questions about my relationships with some former co-workers. It was clear that my interactions with those co-workers demonstrated poor judgment on my part and were against university policy, and resigning was in the best interest of everyone involved,” Evans wrote.
“With the help of counseling, I have learned a lot about the causes of my behavior. I am very lucky to have the support of my wife in this process. Together, I continue to learn how to become a better person. I am deeply sorry for disappointing so many people, but I keep working to make a positive future. Thank you for the opportunity to provide my perspective.”