A Wisconsin wrestling coach says he was fired for reporting sexual assault allegations to police—rather than telling the university first.
Timothy Fader, former head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, has filed a federal lawsuit against the school’s athletic director and former chancellor alleging retaliation, wrongful termination, and defamation.
It wasn’t the only sexual assault claim Fader reported. The first time he reported such allegations to the university on behalf of a woman, in January 2013, officials failed to document it, he claims.
The next allegations came in April 2014, when an area mother phoned Fader and said her daughter—a former UW-Whitewater student who once babysat for him—was sexually assaulted by a potential recruit to the wrestling team.
“He did what any parents who have a daughter at our college would have wanted to happen,” said Stan Davis, Fader’s attorney, adding that neither the prospect nor the accuser were UW-Whitewater students at the time.
“He’s being punished for doing the right thing. He’s being punished for what parents would want a coach to do and what common sense would have you do,” Davis added.
According to the lawsuit, Fader immediately called cops at the mother’s request. Then he arranged to take the prospective wrestler to the Whitewater police station for an interview. The athlete denied any wrongdoing and was willing to speak to detectives, the complaint says.
The coach eventually learned that Whitewater cops declined to charge the man. But three weeks later, interim athletic director Amy Edmonds called Fader into her office and warned, “We could both lose our jobs over this,” court papers say.
The two met with then-Chancellor Richard Telfer, who allegedly told Fader he violated policy by failing to report the allegations to the university first.
“Someone in this room will have to explain this,” Telfer told Fader, the lawsuit says, before suspending him from the university.
In the months that followed, Fader said he was pressured to resign. The university then declined to renew his contract, and gave potential employers bad reviews, preventing him from landing another job, the complaint states.
“We all know situations and cases where people found out about these [kinds of] allegations, whether it was a student or an athlete and they didn’t tell anybody about it, and it was a disaster,” Fader told The Daily Beast.
“Then you have this case, where the police were notified, and the school was upset the police were notified.”
A UW-Whitewater spokeswoman said via email the school “does not comment on pending litigation.”
Fader’s complaint comes as UW-Whitewater is facing with a federal probe into its handling of sexual assault cases. The university was one of only 55 colleges nationwide under investigation by the federal government in 2014 for failing to properly investigate campus sexual assault allegations. Fader believed the university was attempting to make an example out of him over a technical violation, court papers reveal.
While Fader’s lawsuit doesn’t delve into the alleged assault he reported, local media paints a picture of what happened that night.
According to the Daily Union’s review of an incident report—released by police nearly a year later—the accuser was attending off-campus parties with potential recruits, including the 21-year-old wrestler, on April 17, 2014.
She told cops a university wrestling staffer asked her to take three recruits to the parties, the Janesville Gazette reported. (Fader told The Daily Beast he and his staff would never direct a female student to entertain aspiring teammates.)
According to the police report, the woman said she “blacked out” around midnight and woke the next morning in her bed, where she found blood on her shorts and sheets. She also told police she had anal pain, the Daily Union reported.
The former student didn’t “remember much from that night but when she woke up she realized she had been sexually assaulted,” a university report on the incident stated.
Whitewater cops collected evidence, including bedsheets, clothing, and a rape kit. The wrestler provided DNA from cheek swabs voluntarily, and told police that they engaged in consensual sexual activities throughout the night, according to the Daily Union.
The Walworth County district attorney declined to prosecute the case, indicating it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
In separate cases, at least two students filed Title IX complaint against the school, in January 2014 and July 2015, saying administrators failed to interview key witnesses among other alleged violations.
One student said university officials’ unsympathetic treatment included missed appointments and hurried conversations with her.
“I don’t feel I was treated fairly,” the unnamed woman told WISC-TV. “I don’t think anybody should be treated the way that I was. It was worse than the assault, a lot worse. I regret with everything, coming forward and saying anything.”
Raechel Liska, another former student who filed a Title IX complaint, told WISC-TV in Madison she was sexually assaulted by a fellow U.S. Army ROTC member on campus.
Liska claims the late dean of students, Mary Beth Mackin, violated her civil rights by refusing to interview two key witnesses and by not accepting her police report or medical records from the incident, WISC-TV reported.
The university also declined to issue a no-contact order against her alleged attacker after he retaliated against her for going to police, she said. The Army reportedly removed the man from her classes three months after the alleged assault.
Liska, a 4.0 student and volunteer EMT, was asked to speak at commencement despite the reportedly curt treatment from officials. “I am really bothered that the university still uses me as an exemplary image but is so resistant to helping me at my most vulnerable time,” Liska told the TV station.
Whitewater police referred a rape charge to the Walworth County district attorney but prosecutors declined to file charges, saying they could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the Janesville Gazette reported.
Meanwhile, Fader’s troubles were far from over.
During a May 2014 meeting, Chancellor Telfer allegedly warned Fader the wrestling program was in jeopardy over an anonymous email sent to the dean of students. (Open records requests from Fader and local media have failed to yield the alleged missive.)
Fader was sent home with a sexual assault training packet, including a video, that hadn’t been administered before, his lawsuit claims.
The next day, Fader was suspended. Telfer allegedly directed Fader not to speak to anyone on campus, to the media, or to the accuser and her mother, because “doing so might be viewed as retaliation,” the complaint states.
Fader followed Telfer’s orders.
In another June 2014 meeting, Telfer asked Fader about an alleged sexual assault Fader reported to athletic director Edmonds the year before. Edmonds admitted she had kept no written record of the allegation—a violation of federal law, the lawsuit claims.
The next day, Fader was asked to meet with Telfer again, without Edmonds. During the meeting, Telfer “applauded” Fader for “taking that young man to the police,” court papers show.
“We think you are a great wrestling coach with… high values,” Telfer allegedly said.
The accuser and her mother also met with UW-Whitewater officials and said they were pleased with Fader’s help during “a very emotional time for them” and that he should not be punished, the lawsuit states.
But Telfer was unmoved. He demanded Fader’s letter of resignation by the end of the week, the complaint says.
After suspending Fader, the university launched its own investigation into the wrestling program in search of NCAA violations. University officials cited an anonymous email but the message has never been released. “Either this e-mail never existed, or it has been destroyed by [UW-Whitewater],” the lawsuit charges.
The university’s probe uncovered NCAA violations regarding recruiting, including failing to keep complete records of recruits and housing recruits with non-rostered students, the Janesville Gazette reported. At the time, Edmonds said the school wasn’t penalized because it outlined solutions to its findings.
Still, Fader’s lawsuit states that such minor NCAA violations usually do not even result in penalties and rarely prompt a coach’s firing. The university’s report was completed without giving him or his staff a chance “to correct the many errors and misunderstandings” it contained, court papers allege.
Before Fader reported the sexual assault, he was a three-time NCAA Division III Wrestling Coach of the Year and in talks for a raise in his new contract due to his exemplary performance, the complaint says.
Fader’s assistant coach was also pressured to resign. After he informed the university he was going to seek legal counsel, officials changed their tack and offered him a $30,000 severance package and glowing letter of recommendation, the lawsuit states.
The assistant took the deal and received a job almost immediately with the U.S. Air Force Academy, court papers allege.
Making matters worse, Telfer released an email to the UW-Whitewater community that Fader says insinuated he was involved in a criminal matter.
The missive, published on May 14, 2014, stated, “I was notified that the Whitewater Police Department is investigating an incident involving an adult-aged recruit for the wrestling team. This matter is ongoing and I can only share limited information at this time.”
Telfer continued that his “concerns about the circumstances surrounding the incident” led to him putting Fader on paid leave.
Because of the letter, which was sent to 1,400 people in addition to being published on the university’s website, the community believed Fader was being eyed by cops, Davis told The Daily Beast.
Fader came home to two reporters waiting on his lawn, and his children returning from the school day in tears, Davis said.
A local elementary school also uninvited Fader to an event where he was slated to speak because “school officials were not clear as to whether he was allowed to be around children based on Telfer’s letter,” Davis added.
The lawsuit states Fader could not speak about the incident or try to quell people’s fears over the vague letter from Telfer. Telfer’s message “caused significant damage to Fader’s career,” court papers allege.
When Fader’s contract was not renewed in October 2014, multiple colleges and universities expressed interest in hiring him but were deterred by the letter, the complaint states.
Fader was finally hired for a position at UW-Eau Claire in September 2015. It was only after the wrestler filed a notice of claim against UW-Whitewater that school officials gave him a positive reference, court papers say.
The university “provided no explanation for the sudden change in treatment,” the lawsuit says.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Fader said the damage created by UW-Whitewater officials has “lasting effects” for him and his family—especially because of the mysterious note Telfer sent to the community.
This spring, he was at his son’s little league game when a mother approached him. She’d heard a couple ask: Is that the coach accused of sexual assault?
“It’s excruciating to hear that… to somehow be attached to the sexual assault,” Fader said.
“I have a full-time job now, I have a job I’m very passionate about… but we all feel this [lawsuit] is something that should move forward,” the coach added. “It could possibly help someone else down the line, or at least prevent it from happening again.”