U coach’s wrestling camp examined

David La Vaque

Spurred by complaints of intimidation and harassment, University officials – including chief of staff Tonya Moten Brown and representatives from the general counsel’s office – began investigating wrestling coach J Robinson and his summer wrestling camp Thursday.

Kathy Odegaard of Olympia, Wash., filed a complaint with Julie Sweitzer, director of equal opportunity and affirmative action, surrounding her son D.J.’s experience at Robinson’s camp last month.

The major components of Odegaard’s complaint involve Robinson’s mandating campers write letters to elected officials and Fox Sports outlining their support of wrestling and opposition to gender proportionality and quotas in college athletics.

The second component surrounds a story told by a camp counselor – former Gophers wrestler Brandon Eggum – about a homosexual man going into campers’ rooms and demanding sexual acts at knifepoint. Eggum later admitted he’d made up the story.

Issues of cleanliness and hydration have also been raised.

Robinson said he reprimanded Eggum for the story and called the issue closed.

“None of these allegations are to be taken lightly,” men’s athletics director Tom Moe said. “Regardless of ownership or premises, one thing to be aware of is when allegations of this nature are reported, it effects the entire University community.”

J Robinson Wrestling Camps are owned and operated by the coach from an off-campus Minneapolis office. Sweitzer and Moe said they are exploring to what extent Robinson’s camps – some using University facilities – fall under the school’s jurisdiction.

Robinson, who brought Minnesota an NCAA wrestling title last spring, said he finds no fault in the way he conducts his 24-year-old camps. The goal of the 28-day camps, he said, is to instill discipline within the wrestlers.

“We’re allowing one lady to distract from everything I’ve done,” Robinson said. “In 24 years I’ve had 10,000 kids go through camp – what does this lady know about it? She knows nothing.”

Robinson said he’s required campers to write letters in support of wrestling for the last five years, adding an individual’s non-compliance results in a subtraction of “points” needed to “graduate” the camp. Odegaard said Robinson also threatened campers with running at 2:30 a.m. and a hard practice at 4:30 a.m. if the letters were not written.

Long an outspoken opponent of gender proportionally and quotas, Robinson is among the leading voices against aspects of Title IX, the federal law requiring equal athletic opportunities for women.

Odegaard said Robinson told wrestlers to state in their letters that each was 18 years of age and owned a satellite dish at home to further sway politicians and FOX Sports.

“You are having them learn to get involved in the decision-making process of things that will affect their lives,” Robinson said. “This isn’t like a school setting here. If you don’t like what we do in any way, you can leave. It’s that simple.”

Kathy Odegaard said Robinson’s camp became a never-ending series of undesirable circumstances for her son, D.J.

The 17-year-old wrestler needed medical attention on the first day of camp due to a lack of water. Odegaard said Robinson also withholds graduation points anytime a wrestler goes to a trainer.

The next day, Odegaard passed out at practice and was doused with water to cool his 104-degree body temperature, Kathy said.

Finally, Odegaard was brought before the wrestlers and questioned about what he’d told his mother.

Kathy Odegaard filed a formal complaint after several phone messages to Robinson were not returned.

She is encouraged by the University’s investigation and is contemplating further action.

“If I feel (a lawsuit) is necessary in order to ensure further camps are run in a much more safe and humane way, then that may be an option I would explore. But I’ve never done anything like that before.”

 

David La Vaque is the sports editor
and welcomes comments at [email protected].