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

Former University of Victoria coxswain Lily Copeland shows off her national championship medals, uniform and celebratory newspaper clipping after winning the Brown Cup while being photographed at home in Brentwood Bay, B.C., on Saturday, November 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

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

In a statement posted 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.

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 a statement released on 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,” says 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.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2021.

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