It was a matter of rules and consequences, he said. On Jan. 24, Kevin Hadsell, the director of the University of Toledo's men's and women's cross country and women's track program, announced his resignation, a move that was as mysterious as it was abrupt. Hadsell had been at Toledo since 1998, and in the intervening years he had built the Rockets into a regional power, becoming an institution unto himself along the way. The 42-year-old was a five-time Mid-American Conference coach of the year. He did color commentary on Toledo women's basketball games, and he hosted a weekly podcast and radio show. He cut a lively figure on campus, and when Toledo's football coach, Tim Beckman, decamped for Illinois, Hadsell evidently felt he had enough clout around town that he could scoff at the decision from his Twitter account. "You couldn't pay me enough $ to take certain jobs in big conferences," he wrote. "Some schools are dead-end jobs in some sports. Think two moves ahead."
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was gone. "I want to apologize to the University, the Toledo community and the student-athletes, past and present, for letting them down," he said in a statement. "I have always told my student-athletes that there are rules, and that they must follow the rules or face the consequences. I hold myself to the same standards; it would be hypocritical not to. Therefore, I have submitted my resignation today as the director of women's track & field and men's and women's cross country." The school made a point of saying Hadsell hadn't violated any NCAA rules.
What Hadsell and the university did not say is that the coach was forced to resign after a female runner had accused him of sexual harassment. The runner, whom we'll call Andrea to protect her identity, had also revealed to the school that Hadsell had been in a long-term physical relationship with her teammate and friend.
Deadspin has obtained text messages sent to Andrea over the past five months from Hadsell's phone. They range in tone from the flirty to the frankly sexual, growing obsessive and paranoid as he learns of the university's investigation; until the very end, it seems, he was unaware that it was Andrea who had turned him in.
"I'm too fucking selfish," Hadsell joked to Andrea on Oct. 22, denying a relationship with the other runner, whom we will refer to as Caitlin. "I'm down for drinks, laughs, sex. Other than that I value my free time." Earlier, he had told Andrea: "Not gonna lie. I would hook up with [Caitlin] (I havmt) but if she wasn't psycho I would." He added, "If I fuck her I'm fucked." And: "It may be a good ride. Just sayin."
In fact, Hadsell had been dating Caitlin for more than two years, according to several sources. In other texts to Andrea, he mocked another runner on the team after finding out she had slept with a male student he knew to be a virgin ("Dude not the kind of chick you want to lose it to man. Omg.")
Interviews with former athletes, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggest a charismatic coach who maintained few boundaries with his runners. There were physical and romantic relationships with athletes and at least one non-athlete student from the beginning of his time in Toledo. Those relationships, in our sources' telling, tended to unfold in similar fashion.
In addition, the runners we spoke to said Hadsell would regularly talk to them about sex and send them sexually suggestive text messages. He hounded runners who tried to quit the team. He used his authority as a coach to exert dominion over the private lives of his athletes, pressuring his female runners to stay off birth control. Former runners also recall Hadsell drunk-driving the team van, drinking during practices, and buying alcohol for underage runners.
One source described a "cover-up culture" among the athletes—female athletes too uncomfortable to bring up the matter with each other or with school officials. Some worried that nobody would believe their word against that of a highly respected coach. Some didn't want to risk their position with the team. Others worried about outing their friends.
"Still to this day I wish I would have done something," said a former runner who's now in his early 30s. The runner learned of one female teammate who had a sexual relationship with Hadsell. He and a male teammate confronted the coach; Hadsell "freaked out" on them, denying everything and saying that the woman who'd told them about the relationship was crazy and hungry for attention.
The two male runners confronted Hadsell again toward the end of their time at Toledo. Hadsell was less angry and less adamant in his denial, but he didn't admit to anything, either. The matter was dropped. Nobody said anything to the athletic department or the university, a fact that the runner now regrets. "You're just stuck in this position where these kids are your friends," he said, "and you don't want to ruin their reputations in the group. And they are technically adults and can make their own decisions. But the thing is, you're left with a guy who is obviously abusing his power to do this stuff."
That stuff finally caught up to him. According to a source, Hadsell was going to be fired if he didn't resign. "He's playing it off like he's a big hero for accepting the consequences," the source said, "but he was forced to resign."
* * *
By all accounts, Kevin Hadsell is an excellent coach—a high-energy guy committed to his program and the success of his runners. Even people who knew of his behavior toward some of his female athletes confessed to liking him nonetheless.
He certainly got results. After assistant coaching stints at Coastal Carolina and Columbia, Hadsell came aboard in Toledo as the head coach for men's and women's cross country and an assistant in women's track and field. (In 2003, he became director of the school's entire running program.) In short order he turned one of the country's worst women's programs into the cream of the MAC. Before his arrival, the women's cross country team had finished last in the MAC in 13 out of the previous 18 seasons. Under Hadsell, the women's team would win league titles in 2001 and 2002, and again in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
"I always enjoyed him and thought he was a great coach," said a male runner who was coached by Hadsell when he first came to Toledo. "I do know that when he did coach, he was probably one of the best coaches I've ever had. He really took the time to better you as a runner."
Said a female runner from recent years: "When you did run a good race, he was so proud of you and that was such a good feeling."
But Hadsell's control over his female athletes would often extend beyond the track. Several female runners from different eras described a similar process. The texting would begin early, during freshman or sophomore year. A runner who paid attention to Hadsell would be repaid with a bigger role on the team. A runner who ignored his personal intrusions would be ignored as an athlete.
"I feel that he recruits—based on the coaches I've had since then—that he recruits a certain mentality of girl that seems to buy into him," said one woman who ran under Hadsell in the mid- to late-2000s. "We were all kind of naive that way. We thought he was so awesome and would do whatever he said."
Another runner recalled Hadsell texting incessantly about her weekend plans: "At first you wanted that because you knew that he cared about you as an athlete, which is not right," she said. "At some points it was like a competition to get his attention, which is kind of fucked up and weird, but for some reason you wanted his approval."
Hadsell had a group of his female runners he openly referred to as the "in crowd," according to several former Toledo athletes. In-crowd runners were those who paid special attention to their coach and who in return received preferential treatment during practices and meets.
"Coach Hadsell, you need to be his buddy," Andrea said. "You had to be friends with him or he'll just ignore you. There's no coincidence the in-crowd girls—the girls he races constantly in the big meets—are the women who talk to him the most and have the most open line of communication."
He could be harsh, too. He would mock girls on other teams for having "muffin-tops," one runner recalled. "But these girls were not heavy and that made you feel like shit," she said. "He would start saying that and then you'd look at yourself and think you need to lose weight. We've had several eating disorders on the team, and it really fucks you up."
According to the same source, Hadsell discouraged his female runners from taking birth control "because it messes with hormones and makes you gain weight." She continued: "Nobody took it because of him. I knew one girl that was going to take it and got the whole team thinking she was an idiot for doing it. We were all brainwashed and thought less of her for taking birth control. He told girls wanting to take it to ease periods to get over it."
One woman, whose relationship with Hadsell was never sexual but who knew about his intrasquad dating habits, had a "significant falling out" with him during her fifth year, after she'd told him she wanted to stop running. She'd had multiple stress fractures, she told me, and wanted to ensure she could be active later in life. "I went to tell him I didn't want to be on the team anymore," she said, "and it was basically a half-hour-long conversation of him telling me nobody loves me, I can't quit this team, this is my family, my parents are bad people, that he was my father figure, that it was stupid for me to focus on grad school and the team was all I had. He would bring up all of my relationships I had over the years and said they all ended because none of the guys loved me or cared about me, and I was never going to be lovable outside of him and the team."
In Hadsell's office, the woman began to cry. "You know," she recalled him saying, "I was going to kick you off the team today but I can see you're genuinely sorry for your actions and behavior and the big guy upstairs told me to give you another chance, so I'm going to let you think about it for a few more days." She left, sent him an email saying she was done running, and never went back, she told me.
"It was definitely entirely fear," she said when asked how his behavior went unreported for so long. "He was an incredibly manipulative man, very manipulative. And I know from from my experience, I really wanted to turn him in, but didn't want to deal with the backlash, especially if after all these years nothing had been done about it. I didn't want to make a scene and not have any conclusive action be taken."
When another runner tried to the leave the program, Hadsell drove a wedge between her and her teammates. "Coach Hadsell totally smeared her name," a teammate recalled. "He called her a bitch at practice while she wasn't there. He told the girls that she used Toledo to get higher up, that she doesn't give a shit about these girls or the team. He told the girls not to talk to her, no communication whatsoever, and in the meantime he's telling her that she needs to rejoin the team, begging her to please come back." Both the blackballed runner and her teammate believe Hadsell used his connections to close off other opportunities for her, forcing her briefly to come back to Toledo for a lack of options.
"We are afraid because he has so much power in the running community," the teammate explained. "He has a lot of friends and basically you don't want to mess with him because your life will be ruined. I guarantee that's why everybody wants to stay so anonymous because we don't know what he's going to do, what story he's going to make up about us."
Outside of practice and meets, Hadsell acted more like a friend—one of their peers—than a coach. He often drank alcohol with his team and regularly bought them drinks, including the underage members, according to five recent runners we contacted.
"When you are a freshman, you don't really know how college is supposed to be, so you kind just think this is normal," one former female runner said. "In the situation, you thought it was cool; like, 'He bought me a drink, this is awesome.' But he was like an immature 20-year-old. You don't realize that's wrong at the time."
She began to realize things were weird during her sophomore year. One night, the women on the team went out to a college bar together. After drinking for a while, she decided to go home, whereupon she ran into Hadsell sitting in his car outside the bar, drunk and wanting to meet up with the girls.
Runners reported smelling alcohol on his breath at several practices. He drank at nights during meets. He could often be found with a highball in hand, Crown Royal mixed into a large McDonald's soda cup.
He could be reckless about it, too, according to several runners. In September 2008, the team traveled to New York City for a race. Hadsell drove the women's team in a van, with the men trailing in another van.
"He staggered up to the van" where it was parked near Times Square, said a male runner on the team at the time. "He was not walking in a straight line—it was pretty obvious." The cars made for the team's hotel, the runner recalled, and Hadsell's "would swerve from lane to lane."
This wasn't an isolated incident, either. We spoke with five runners who'd gone to Toledo between 2008 and the present. Each one reported that Hadsell drove the team van drunk on muliple occasions, including once this past October while in Wisconsin for a meet.
* * *
That Hadsell had physical relationships with the women in his program was an open secret among Toledo runners throughout his time at the school. One runner knew of a Coastal Carolina student-athlete with whom he'd fathered a child during his time in the athletic department there in the mid-1990s. (Hadsell was in his mid-20s at the time and did not coach the woman.)
According to several members of the Toledo program, Hadsell was in a long-term relationship with one runner in the early 2000s, starting during her freshman year at Toledo. He also dated another runner, her friend, at the same time, though neither one knew Hadsell was seeing the other. He would tell them the same things he would later tell Andrea about Caitlin: The other girl was crazy, obsessed with him, emotionally unstable, he would say, denying everything. Legend has it that Hadsell once climbed out of the latter woman's second-story window to avoid being spotted in her room by a male housemate who had just come home.
When the relationship crumbled between Hadsell and the first runner, he continued with the second, leading to a years-long on-again, off-again relationship that is well known among the Toledo runners we interviewed. The woman was hired by Hadsell as an assistant coach at Toledo after graduation and lived with him for several more years before splitting up for good and leaving for a coaching job at another school.
By the time Andrea arrived on campus, there was a playbook. Hadsell first began texting her regularly near the end of her freshman year. She wanted to improve as a runner, and she knew what it took to join the in-crowd.
"I wanted to get better so I had to be friends and would talk to him and text him back when he would text me," she explained. "I was thinking: 'Why do I have to text you after practice? Why do I have to have these ongoing conversations with you?' It was inappropriate. It was so unnecessary. That's the frustrating part—you have to be his friend to get training."
She soon became a confidante. "[Andrea] knew everything that was going on with the team because Coach Hadsell would tell her," a former teammate recalled. "He would tell her personal things about other girls, that they would go to him in confidence regarding family life, running, or whatever, and he would go to [Andrea]."
At the beginning of her sophomore year his texts to Andrea became more sexually charged, though the two never had a physical relationship, according to Andrea. He constantly asked what she was doing. The time a runner saw him sitting on his car outside the bar? He was waiting for Andrea.
"It was weird, very weird," Andrea said, explaining she was scared of facing repercussions if she didn't play along. "I didn't know what to do about it. I was just really scared people were going to find out out, and I didn't know what they were going to think. I just kind of ignored [the advances] with him. I knew it was wrong when it was going on. I just didn't have an outlet to say anything because I wasn't sure anybody would believe me."
"Dude. Straighgt up...can I trust you? And. Are u really interested in me?"
It was during that year—Andrea's sophomore year—that Hadsell launched into a romantic relationship with her roommate, Caitlin, a junior runner. At the time, Andrea had no idea.
"She's one of my best friends," Andrea said, "and he basically turned us against each other because he would tell me she is a stalker, she's a psychopath, and she would deny that they were together."
But Andrea still ran fast. "Luckily, I was able to compartmentalize," she said. "I still raced well when I dealt with that, but someone else, who knows how they are going to react to that?" (A former teammate of Andrea's said the rest of the team "knew she kind of got special treatment," but didn't realize the extent of her relationship with Hadsell.)
Things began to fall apart for Hadsell in the fall. An anonymous woman tipped off the athletic department in September about at least two of Hadsell's relationships with female runners. The caller mentioned one of the women Hadsell had dated in the early- to mid-2000s. The caller also knew about Caitlin. On Oct. 2, Hadsell and Andrea, who was still running for Toledo, had a fraught conversation via text message.
(Note: Kelly Andrews, mentioned in a text, is the senior associate athletic director who received the call from the anonymous tipster. Mike O'Brien, referred to in the texts as "obrien" and "OB," has been Toledo's athletic director for the past 14 years. The redactions are all ours.)
Hadsell: "An anonymous woman called Kelly Andrews the day of the home meet and told her about [name of former assistant coach redacted; let's call her Michelle] and also accused me of having dated another girl on the team recently and said I was still dating that chick. Didn't say who she was and wouldn't leave her name. I have a meeting with kelly, obrien and human resources monday. dude don't tell a soul. I need to trust you on this."
Andrea: "I promise man. Holy fcking shit what the fuck is that about?"
Hadsell: "I don't know. I have my suspicions. But I don't understand the whole accusation about someone recent as I have not dated anyone at all! I haven't been in. Relationship since dating [name redacted]. Someone trying to ge t me fired and ruin my career (and this program in the process)."
Andrea: "Dude that's so shitty. I'm going to assume the chick you're 'dating on the team' is me. Why would someone do that?"
Hadsell: "I don't think they meant you. They said she is a former runner. That this happened in the past couple years and that allegedly I'm still with her which is fucking bullshit."
Andrea: "Oh gotcha. Shit man. Who the fuck would it be? Hahahaha all the former runners are married"
Hadsell: "I admitted to the [Michelle] incident. I was honest. Obrien said that if I'm dating a former runner he doesn't care and that it is impossible to prove I was in a relationship and impossible to prove I wasn't."
Andrea: "Truth man. I'm sorry dude. People see our heightened success and apparently want to tear that down?"
Andrea: "You haven't really seemed yourself so I thought something was up"
Hadsell: "I had a reprimand by the university and they closed the investigation. They said thenonly way it can be proved I was in a relationship with someone is if I admit it or that former athlete admitted to it and had proof (pictures, old emails, witnesses)."
Andrea: "Holy fuck so this was like a full scale investigation"
The conversation picked up again later:
Hadsell: "I don't know but it was honest and that sucked because OB and Kelly didn't know that."
Andrea: "Oooh oopsies. Well that was a long time ago though."
Hadsell: "Exactly. Dude I hate shit like that. People don't think about all the good I've done when they make a call like that."
Andrea: "Honesty - I bet it was strategically done when were having all this success to try to tear it down. I mean really, because if that person was really concerned why wouldn't they place the call as soon as they knew about all this?"
Andrea: "And uhhh you can date former athletes correct?"
Hadsell: "Exactly. Pussies."
Hadsell: "Dude don't mention a word of this to anyone."
Andrea: "If it were to get out it would put a serious dark cloud over our program"
Hadsell: "Yes. They even said I can from the day they graduate. They don't care."
The university had nothing to go on except for an anonymous phone call, and Hadsell was apparently cleared. If he was at all chastened by the investigation, he didn't show it. Here's a series of texts from Oct. 7, five days after he'd complained that someone was out to ruin his career with allegations of inappropriate relationships with his runners. Around 10 p.m.:
Hadsell: "I want to talk."
Hadsell: "And Be real"
Andrea: "Okay we can"
Hadsell: "Dude. Straighgt up...can I trust you? And. Are u really interested in me?"
Andrea: "Yes you can trust me"
No further texts for an hour. Then:
Hadsell: "Are u awake?"
No further texts until 12:57 a.m.
Hadsell: "I guess not. Fuckk."
Four days later, while in Wisconsin for a cross-country meet, Andrea told Hadsell she knew he'd been sleeping with Caitlin, who had graduated the previous spring. Hadsell denied everything.
Andrea: "you really don't lead her on at all?"
Hadsell: "Dude. I don't. I don't completely discourage. I'm a guy. Duhh. That's honest."
Andrea: "I knew it"
Hadsell: "Like you know what I mean. You're not ENCOURAGING. But you're not"
Hadsell: "Not gonna lie. I would hook up with [Caitlin] (I havemt) but if she wasn't psycho I would."
Hadsell: "But you and I are far too cool not to."
Andrea: "She is psycho! I told you!"
Hadsell: "If I fuck her I'm fucked"
Hadsell: "It may be a good ride. Just sayin."
Hadsell: "But now sure of the rest of it."
Andrea: "Hahaha noting man"
Hadsell: "Hahaha. That she may be a good lay?"
Andrea: "No I'm sure she is"
Andrea: "But she's just crazy nano"
Hadsell: "Not worth it."
Hadsell: "Dhe talks a big game."
Andrea: "I'm sure"
Hadsell: ".maybe you talk a big gAme?"
Andrea: "Hey I'm going to bounce soon man"
Hadsell: "Fucmkkk. :("
Andrea: "I know man"
Andrea: "Obvi Ill keep in touch"
Hadsell: "Fuck man."
Hadsell's tone changed the following month, when Andrea began dating a guy around her age.
"He basically started threatening to kick me off the team at that time," she told me. "It was a big mess—threatening to kick me off the team, saying I was uncooperative, saying that I was just a crazy runner chick, basically messing with my head and [saying how] it was bullshit that I was dating someone now. Him and I have never had a relationship other than coach and athlete, so for him to say that was pretty over the top."
After the season was over, she began running on her own, much to the displeasure of the coach who wanted to control her workout plan.
"There would be times where he would be driving around my neighborhood to see if I was out running when I wasn't supposed to be," Andrea said, adding that Caitlin kept tabs on her for Hadsell.
In December, Andrea told Hadsell she was unhappy and thinking about leaving the team. He tried to pressure her into finishing out the year on the team. He sent her text messages that vacillated between anger and pleading in the span of a few characters.
On Dec. 10, he texted: "Your salty silence is only making things worse. If you can't tell, I'm pissed at you. It is all this shit added up together (doing your own thing) not any one thing on its own. This isn't a joke and I'm not fucking around. This is your responsibility to fix. Not mine. You could be ncaa champion but it won't happen unless we get on the same page. Literally."
A little later, he added: "Karma as fuck right now. You are literally to not run a step until I personally say it is ok. I'm fucking serious about this."
On Dec. 20, they had the following exchange:
Hadsell: "So what are we going to do at this point?"
Andrea: "I really don't know."
Hadsell: "You're pissing away once in a lifetime opportunity."
Andrea: "I don't think I am"
Hadsell: "How so?"
Andrea: "Dude I can't do this. I've been pretty unhappy for some time."
Later, Hadsell called her into his office to sign release papers.
"So I came in, and he said there weren't any papers for me to sign," Andrea said. "I was confused." As she remembered it, Hadsell told her: "I was just adding up all the thousands of dollars that you owe me and the school for taking you to these races. I'm just counting up all the money I'm going to lose from my bonus" because she would no longer be around to help the team win. He went on: "Do you really want to do this? Your reputation is going to be ruined if you leave here. People are going to question why you are leaving, and you're going to say some bullshit excuse about not being happy. You're not emotionally ready. You're emotionally unstable."
What Hadsell didn't realize was that Andrea, in her words, "had just had enough." She'd gone to Kelly Andrews, Toledo's senior associate athletic director, before winter break in December and told her everything: "I said, 'I don't know what you would do with this information, but I just need to pass it on,' because it had gotten to the point where my life was out of control with this situation."
She continued: "I felt like I was strong enough to say something. I stood up. I didn't think anybody should have to go through that."
Andrea also came armed with months of text messages still on her phone—she would have had more had Hadsell not prevailed upon her to delete their correspondence earlier in the fall. The university now had evidence—and, according to a source, investigators would get even more when Caitlin, upon seeing the text messages sent to Andrea, admitted to her relationship with Hadsell. "She freaked out and told HR everything," Andrea said.
On Jan. 3, Hadsell and Andrea had another exchange. "Someone's out to get me," Hadsell wrote, apparently unaware of how the latest investigation had started.
Hadsell: "I guess someone complained that I cuss and allegedly drink with athletes and something about texts."
Andrea: "Lol drop one too many F bombs?"
Hadsell: "Apparently. And apparently someone on the team. Allegedly."
Andrea: "Is this another one of the anonymous source deals?"
Hadsell: "I'm going to force them to tell me. I have a right to know.
The next day:
Hadsell: "Dude, you swear you know nothing about this human resources thing man? I won't even be pissed I just don't understand why someone out to get me."
Andrea: "I don't man. I haven't heard anything from anyone but then again I doubt anyone would tell me anything."
Hadsell: "Literally someone is harassing me."
Andrea: "You think it was the same person who called about the [Caitlin] think earlier this yr?"
Hadsell: "No idea where any of this comes from."
Four days later:
Hadsell: "Dude if you hear anything let me know. I don't know who the heck would do this to me. My life could be ruined. Literally. And I have zero idea what it is even about. Ugh."
Hadsell: "There's a chance I may never hear a word I guess. It is annonymous unless tge person follows thru. If they don't I guess I won't even know who or what it was about. Fuckkkk."
* * *
It has been more than two weeks since Hadsell "resigned." Neither he nor the university has specified what university rule violation led to his resignation. Athletic director Mike O'Brien and senior associate athletic director Kelly Andrews refused to answer questions about it. We were told that Larry Burns, Toledo's vice president for external affairs, was the only person who would speak about Hadsell's departure, but Burns would not answer specific questions because "the file is still open" for an undisclosed amount of time. Toledo has not yet responded to Deadspin's public records request seeking recent emails and letters related to Hadsell, though the school did provide documents from Hadsell's personnel file detailing his salary, wage increases, and basic job evaluations. Last week, we set up an appointment with Toledo's human resources department to inspect its investigations into Hadsell. We were met in the office with a note to contact the communications office, which informed us we could not inspect the HR files without first being screened by the legal department. In fact, Toledo officials would neither confirm nor deny such records even exist.
Hadsell has not returned multiple text and voice messages left on his cell phone, nor did he come to door of his Toledo house when we tried to reach him there in person. He did not respond to the note left on his front door. Some say he has since left for California. The last we heard, Hadsell was tipping off the Toledo Blade about our story and issuing a pre-emptive denial.
"I'm glad something was done," Andrea said. "He can no longer be in a position of power to put pressure on women to do whatever, and I'm glad that he is not able to do that to anyone anymore." But the university's silence bothers her. There are rules, and there should be consequences. "He could get hired somewhere," she said, "and just do this at the next job he has."