A lack of transparency and failure by 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 individuals who there is information on. how Evans was hired for a subsequent position.
As previously reported by the Guardian, Evans was allowed to step down from her role leading the University of Toledo’s successful women’s soccer program in 2015. At the time, the resignation cited an “inappropriate relationship” with a co-worker, though the university. He was aware of concerns raised by players and families, including allegations of sexual assault.
The university ended its investigation into those complaints when he resigned – meaning allegations from former staff effectively disappeared. Evans did not face criminal charges in connection with the allegations.
After leaving Toledo, Evans was hired into senior roles with Ohio Youth Soccer Association North and Internationals Soccer Club, a regional youth soccer powerhouse located near Cleveland, Ohio.
Internationals Soccer Club director of coaching Keri Sarver hired Evans for a coaching role on the team in 2020. She told the Guardian she was unaware of the allegations against him at Toledo. “I knew he had resigned from the University of Toledo because of an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker and that’s all I know,” she said.
“I was told that it was a relationship with an adult co-worker and from that point of view it was a personal matter between him and his wife and his children and his employer. At that point, that’s all I knew and that’s where it started and ended.”
Sarver currently serves as an assistant coach with the New Zealand women’s national team preparing for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. She has a lengthy resume that includes work as a scout for the United States Soccer Federation’s national youth teams and as an assistant coach for USWNT youth under-18.
“We can only go forward on what we know at the time,” Sarver said. “We followed all the processes — a criminal background check — and there were no red flags. All the coaches we hire or work with our teams are trained in SafeSport every year and it ticked all those boxes. I acted on what I knew at the time to be true.”
Sarver’s pragmatic view, however, 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 showed how the lack of transparency surrounding Evans’ departure from the University of Toledo affected the youth soccer community. “Brad was my daughter’s club coach for a few years. It made her so uncomfortable. She has to quit soccer because of him. Many of her colleagues did. We knew why he left UT and didn’t understand why he was hired as a club coach,” the post read.
After his 2015 departure from the University of Toledo, the Ohio Youth Soccer Association recruited North Evans in roles that included leading its Olympic Development Program. One person familiar with the recruitment process told the Gardaí: “I’m amazed to this day that guy was even allowed back into football”.
“There were things that weren’t done right at Ohio North that led to him being hired,” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity and fearing professional and personal repercussions within the US soccer community.
“Hell yeah [his behavior] he was well known at the time. They knew. Everyone at that table 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. Shame on them.”
The individual said: “The board had no intention of hiring him. There were a few guys on the Ohio North board who were totally against it but their voices didn’t count.”
Tom Turner was the director of coaching for the Northern Ohio Youth Soccer Association at the time of Evans’ recruitment and is understood to have been the driving force behind the hire according to multiple sources. Turner is currently listed as director of membership growth and development at the Ohio Soccer Association. Turner did not respond to multiple requests for comment by email and phone from the Guardian.
The Northern Ohio Youth Soccer Association became the Ohio Soccer Association (OSA) in 2021. Evans continued to lead the state’s Olympic Development Program and USA Soccer’s coaching education programs until the Guardian exposed allegations of abuse by six women.
“We were not aware of the allegations or had any insight into the hiring practices of other companies or organizations,” OSA chief executive officer Gordon Henderson said in an email to the Guardian.
The OSA has since removed any mention of Evans from its website and claims the allegations are now under the jurisdiction of the US SafeSport Center. Henderson said Evans’ employment with the organization ended on July 29, 2022, a few weeks after the Guardian’s report was published.
“The University of Toledo knew [about his behavior] and they let him get away with it and pretend it didn’t happen,” says Michelle Sandor, who played under Evans at Ashfield University in Ohio from 1996 to 2000.
Today, Sandor is a high school soccer coach and says she avoided attending any coaching events Evans was scheduled to attend.
“[Toledo] putting all these other women at risk,” Sandor said. “Then, the Ohio Soccer Association hired him knowing he had to resign because of his behavior. It’s not such a great coach that you can’t find another one. That you are going to hire someone who [allegedly] abuse women instead of finding the next best coach? It’s terrible.”
The US SafeSport Center – an organization created in 2017 to investigate and highlight issues of sexual abuse and other misconduct in Olympic and Paralympic sports – also received a report about Evans’ behavior in 2019 but did not pursue an investigation on her.
That report, from former University of Toledo assistant coach Candice Fabry, alleged sexual assault by Evans that had been reported to the university earlier. Fabry’s report led to multiple email exchanges and two conversations with investigators and Fabry was asked to gather information about other potential victims on behalf of SafeSport and forward any data to the organization. Although SafeSport was aware of an allegation against Evans, the agency did not investigate it at the time.
“SafeSport knew [in 2019] what I reported to Toledo and how Toledo did not tell the truth when he resigned,” said Fabry. “That’s the most frustrating thing – my story wasn’t enough, I was always asked to go and see if I could convince other people to come forward for an investigation to actually happen, and then, two bodies that can investigate consequences and attend them – Toledo and SafeSport – did nothing. They knew he was walking around and I had to get enough people to come forward to do something.”
The Guardian made multiple requests for comment to the USA SafeSport Centre, and three Washington DC-based public relations companies. After numerous text and email exchanges, SafeSport USA Center did not provide The Guardian with any information or a spokesperson.
According to its website, “The SafeSport SafeSport and Young Victims of Sexual Abuse Protection Act of 2017 declared the SA Center for SafeSport, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, as the nation’s safe sports organization.” The 2017 SafeSport legal arm has the authority to resolve reports of abuse and misconduct across the US Olympic and Paralympic Movement – including soccer. The Center is funded by a $20m annual contribution from the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and part of that funding comes from sports governing bodies that pay fees – effectively a fine – based on the number of allegations reported to the centre.
A 2022 ABC News investigation into the US SafeSport Center found that “the system allowed alleged abusers to return to their sports with little public warning, undermining the faith of some athletes and their supporters in the work of the centre, which in turn. threaten the centre’s ability to function effectively.”
The USA SafeSport Center can ban and suspend individuals from participating in sport under the USOPC umbrella. Those people are listed on its centralized disciplinary database. Although Evans did not face sanctions when the US SafeSport Center first reported his alleged behavior in 2019, he was subsequently listed with a “provisional suspension” on July 11, 2022, following the Guardian’s investigation.
“Could there be more support and more tools in incidents like this and shed light on it?” said Savior. “I think the answer is yes.”
Added the individual with knowledge of how the North Ohio Youth Soccer Association hired Evans in 2017: “I’m sad for those girls [at Toledo]. I’m sorry that a university allowed that to happen, that a university continued to allow that to happen, that it ended it, but Ohio North soccer said, ‘That’s OK. Come back to Ohio.”
Brad Evans did not respond to multiple interview requests or email questions regarding specific allegations about his time with Toledo. He gave a statement to the Guardian about his departure from the university:
“In 2015 I was asked to answer questions about my relationship with some former colleagues. My interactions with those co-workers clearly demonstrated poor judgment on my part, and were against university policy, and it would have been better for everyone involved to quit,” Evans wrote.
“With the help of counselling, I have learned a lot about the reasons behind my behaviour. I am very lucky to have the support of my wife in this process. Together, I continue to learn how to be a better person. I am sorry to disappoint so many individuals, but I continue to work towards a positive future. Thank you for the opportunity to provide my perspective.”