The University of Missouri-Kansas City women’s softball team is embroiled in a long-running controversy surrounding one of its assistant coaches. According to a report by The Kansas City Star, Greg Bachkora allegedly engaged in sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior around the players, and would routinely walk into the locker room while they were getting dressed. His reasoning? He needed to use the microwave.
The women’s softball players were getting dressed when the male assistant coach barged into their locker room. He needed to use the microwave oven. Again.
Greg Bachkora had made a habit of it.
“Some girls would have to cover themselves or duck behind the couch, scrambling to cover themselves,” a player’s father said.
Another player, new to the University of Missouri-Kansas City team last year, said an older player told her Bachkora’s visits were so frequent that he “has seen me naked more than my boyfriend has.”
Bachkora also reportedly kissed players on the forehead or cheek in a “fatherly, non-sexual manner” and on at least one occasion, told a joke about female genitalia in front of the students.
UMKC was alerted to the coach’s behavior in May 2018, although the university’s Title IX officer, Mikah Thompson, found no foul play. Bachkora admitted to the inappropriate joke and to walking through the locker room to use the microwave, saying that was the only one made available for the team and staff, but he said he always knocked to announce his presence and that he never saw any of the players naked. Players disputed Bachkora’s version of events, saying that he only announced his presence after he was already inside the locker room. (The Star included a redacted version of Thompson’s report, which can be read here.)
UMKC found these explanations satisfactory; their solution was to give Bachkora and the rest of the staff a microwave in the common area. He was also told to send a female grad student into the locker room if he needed something from there. However, a current player told the Star that even after these actions were taken, the assistant coach still comes into the locker room:
“I still see the same behavior. I don’t think he comes in as often, but he still does it,” said the player, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. Recently, she said, the coach entered while a player was in the shower, with no curtain, and “my teammates had to yell at him to get out.”
The school’s decision wasn’t satisfactory for a handful of players, who ended up transferring to get away from Bachkora and the UMKC program. The father of one player left no doubt as to why his daughter had packed up her bags and left:
She didn’t want to leave UMKC but when they said they weren’t going to do anything about him, she had no choice.
When the Star reached out to UMKC to ask for comment, the school used that opportunity to pass along a document that summarized an “alcohol-related” rules violation from March 2018 involving six players, three of whom had made accusations against Bachkora. All six were suspended indefinitely. One transferred immediately while the other two were informed that their scholarships would not be renewed due to “their resistance to disciplinary actions relating to the alcohol incident and lack of remorse.” The other three players, who hadn’t accused Bachkora, were reinstated.
Speaking to the Star, Privacy Forum lawyer Sara Collins said sharing this report unprompted was the school’s way of getting back at the three players, who were easily identifiable due to their ongoing reporting on the Bachkora allegations:
“This was a classic retaliation Title IX case. This was the university’s attempt, in my opinion, to retaliate against the girls for filing a report against their coach. So egregious. This is incredibly serious and quite malicious.”
Since the Star’s story was published on Feb. 10, current UMKC softball players have come to Bachkora’s defense, saying that he never did anything inappropriate with them:
As the Star notes, though, upon finding out that the newspaper would be writing a story, both Bachkora and head coach Meredith Smith Neal reportedly pushed the students on what to say, or to not say anything at all:
One player said that Neal had reached out to team members last month and asked them not to talk with The Star for this story. The player also said Bachkora implored them to say positive things about him if The Star contacted them.
For now, Bachkora remains employed, although he announced earlier this week that he would be taking a voluntary “short leave of absence” while the school reopens the investigation.
Deadspin received a copy of a statement sent out to the athletics department by new athletic director Brandon E. Martin, who very lightly acknowledged the allegations:
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