A Queen’s track coach has been fired after making comments over social media about a former University of Guelph track coach who was let go due to alleged unprofessional conduct.
Steve Boyd, who has been a volunteer track coach for Queen’s since 2010 and was voted Ontario University Athletics women’s coach of the year last year, was given a termination notice Tuesday.
“I actually recorded the conversation in which I was fired and I asked for specific clarifications to what the reasons were. Three times I asked, ‘is this about Guelph, comments on Guelph?'” Boyd said in an interview on Thursday.
“And my athletic director who fired me said, ‘yes, it’s about that.'”
Boyd told Global News he was fired for a social media exchange discussing former Guelph track and field head coach Dave Scott-Thomas, once known as one of the most successful running coaches in Canada. He was let go from University of Guelph last year after a second allegation of an inappropriate relationship with a student athlete came forward.
In a statement sent to Global News Thursday afternoon, Queen’s University said the social media comments in question “follow a pattern of objectionable social media commentary spanning several years, about which he had previously been formally cautioned. Mr. Boyd failed to heed repeated warnings from the administration to stop his reckless social media activities.”
A week ago, Boyd spoke out on Facebook, after a former University of Guelph athlete posted online about her feelings on the Scott-Thomas fallout.
In an exchange with several other athletes, Boyd discussed whether Guelph’s many track titles should be “vacated,” due to allegations of sexual misconduct made against Scott-Thomas.
His argument was that Guelph’s success in track and field was due its recruitment of the best athletes, which was based, in part, on Scott-Thomas’s stellar reputation as a coach.
A University of Guelph statement released in January of this year said Scott-Thomas was suspended in 2006 following a complaint from a family member of a student-athlete Scott-Thomas was coaching.
“It determined that some misconduct had taken place and, based on details available at that time, the University suspended Scott-Thomas for four weeks,” the statement read.
In 2019, the university received another complaint, which they had a third-party investigate.
“While the 2019 investigation was ongoing, the University received new information related to the earlier investigation that made it clear that Scott-Thomas had lied repeatedly in 2006 about several significant matters,” according to the statement.
This new information led to Scott-Thomas’s firing in December, 2019.
In his Facebook comments, Boyd suggested that if Guelph had fired Scott-Thomas years earlier during the first investigation, their track team would have been vastly different over the last decade. He then questioned if the university’s many track titles garnered under Scott-Thomas’ supervision should be withdrawn.
“Had they known what Dave had done in ’06, Guelph admin would have fired him, do you think that those titles should now be vacated? How many of you would have gone to Guelph had Dave been fired in ’06?”
Boyd then suggested that if the University of Guelph was keeping the information of Scott-Thomas’ alleged misconduct from potential recruits, it would amount to “recruiting fraud, ” something he suggested might warrant a sanction from National Collegiate Athletic Association.
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“Forcing programs that have won titles by fraudulent means (in this case, recruiting fraud — because recruits were unaware of a very important truth about the head coach) to vacate those titles is an established practice in the NCAA.”
Boyd also asked other Guelph athletes in the Facebook thread about their personal involvement in keeping Scott-Thomas’ alleged behaviour secret from potential recruits.
“In spite of the difficulties you and others claimed he created, and that you had to endure, many of you enjoyed the personal benefits of winning, and actively sought to enlist others to come and help you continue to win, all the while potentially exposing unwitting athletes to the abuse some of you were suffering.”
“Recruiting is, after all, a team undertaking, and recruiting is crucial to winning. What, if any, responsibility do Guelph athletes have where that is concerned?”
In an interview with Global News, Boyd said people reacted badly to his line of questioning, saying they thought he wanted the University of Guelph athletes to give up their titles out of a sense of rivalry with the school.
“That’s what set a lot of people off, that this re-traumatized them, because now I was devalued accomplishments and so on,” Boyd said.
In fact, it’s Queen’s University’s opinion that Boyd did just that.
“Boyd made numerous statements on social media berating and blaming student athletes who were themselves victims and which only served to re-traumatize them.”
What Boyd said he was trying to suggest was that if the university purposely ignored allegations made against Scott-Thomas because he was an excellent coach, some kind of punitive action should be taken.
“If they covered up for Dave Scott-Thomas all those years and they knew they were doing it, they were doing it because there was something of value that he had to offer them, and the value was the team titles,” Boyd said in an interview.
Boyd also told Global News that Queen’s had warned him once before that he was not allowed to speak publicly about the Scott-Thomas controversy following posts on a popular track and field forum called Trackie.
“So the first time it was after the complaint about the message board post within which I posed two basic questions like ‘Was Guelph covering up in ’06? And ‘Were they doing it again in 19,'” Boyd said.
He said the University of Guelph took screenshots of those comments and sent them to Queen’s. This, he claims, prompted his superiors at Queen’s to put a “gag order” on his public speech.
“The thing that troubled me the most about the gag order was that it was unlimited and it applied to every kind of speech. I was told I can’t leave a voicemail, I can’t send a personal email.”
Boyd said he understands that his contract may allow Queen’s to terminate him for speaking publicly about certain issues, but he doesn’t agree that what he said was grounds for termination.
“There was nothing libelous. There was nothing. I didn’t harass anyone. There was nothing distasteful.”
Boyd said he’s been receiving quite a lot of support from people in the sports community, who feel as if his termination was unwarranted.
One of those people is Brogan MacDouggall, who posted on Instagram about the firing.
“Yesterday was a sad day for running as it lost an incredible coach. Yesterday was a sad day for Queen’s University as they chose to believe the cancel-culture mob over upstanding members of the Queen’s community who excel in sport, in school and in community service,” MacDouggall wrote.
Now, Boyd says he’s hoping that Queen’s University top brass will choose to reinstate him.
“They have the power to reverse this and set the thing right. Again, I care just about my athletes. I want to be one to be able to come back and do what I want to do for them.”
— With files from Matt Carty.