Report Alleges Bullying, Mistreatment by Colgate University Women’s Lacrosse Coach

This is a developing story. Follow updates on Women’s Lacrosse and Kathy Taylor from The Colgate Maroon-News here.

Kathy Taylor, head coach of the Colgate University women’s lacrosse team, is under scrutiny amidst allegations of extreme coaching tactics that some players claim have left them physically, emotionally and mentally scarred.

In a story published by Rochester news outlet Democrat & Chronicle on Wednesday, former athletes and alumnae of the program said Taylor bullied players, criticized their weight, disregarded their mental health, and pressured them to play through injuries, causing some to medically retire.

The Democrat & Chronicle article stated that, under Taylor’s tenure, twenty players have quit the team prior to their graduation. Seven have quit since the start of the 2022-2023 academic year.

Players alleged “bullying” and “abuse” from Taylor, claiming that the head coach has made repeated comments about players’ weights and eating habits. They allege that Taylor made comments about eating too much or too little, and one former player told the D&C that Taylor referred to a teammate as a “refrigerator on wheels.”

They also described a culture of pressure to play through injuries and mental health challenges, causing further stress to players’ bodies and minds. Some players said they suffered irreversible physical damage.

Senior Grace Bowers, who left the team in the fall of 2022, told the D&C that Taylor “treats injured people like nothing.”

Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, a New York-based law firm that specializes in civil rights matters, sent Colgate University officials a ten-page letter in March 2022 on behalf of players and their families that stated that “Coach Taylor is engaged in a pattern of abuse and mistreatment of players.”

The letter was addressed to University President Brian W. Casey.

In the letter, attorneys requested that the University “conduct an immediate expedited, and independent investigation of Coach Taylor’s coaching tactics, with its findings made public, to evaluate whether it is in the best interests of the student-athletes, the women’s lacrosse team and the institution as a whole for Coach Taylor to remain in her position.”

It continued: “As an interim measure, we ask that Coach Taylor be suspended from her role as Head Coach pending the outcome of the investigation.”

Following the receipt of the letter, the University hired a law firm that focuses on women’s athletics to investigate the claims of abuse brought forth in the letter. The firm investigated throughout the summer of 2022 and produced a report that was shared with University officials. Players told the Democrat & Chronicle that they never saw the report, and it is not available to the public.

Our team was so miserable. There’s no way that you can look at this report on how poorly this woman is treating these girls and not do something about it. But that didn’t happen.

— Grace Bowers

On Aug. 10, 2022, then-Colgate University Vice President and Director of Athletics Nicki Moore sent an email to returning players. The email responded to the claims, mentioned the University’s investigation and described the University’s plan to address concerns. Moore wrote that Taylor would remain in her position as head coach. (Moore has since departed Colgate University to become athletics director at Cornell University.)

“I have decided we will continue our path forward in close partnership with Coach Taylor as the head coach of this program,” Moore wrote in the letter. “However, it is clear to all of us, including Coach Taylor, that additional adjustments are necessary to improve and elevate the program.”

The “adjustments” included the promotion of Assistant Coach Jessica Becker to associate head coach, the assignment of a sports administrator for the team and the assignment of a new faculty liaison. Moore also wrote that Jason Meyers, associate professor of biology and neuroscience, would advise on the plan’s execution.

Moore’s email also stated that “Colgate Athletics will adjust its policies temporarily to ensure that those who choose not to return to the program, will retain their athletics scholarship,” a break from standard University policy as outlined in the 2022-2023 Colgate Student-Athlete Handbook.

“Our team was so miserable,” Bowers told the D&C. “There’s no way that you can look at this […] report on how poorly this woman is treating these girls and not do something about it. But that didn’t happen.”

Taylor joined the Colgate women’s lacrosse team in 2019 after a five-season stint at Division II Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY where she led the team to a national championship in 2018. Before that, she spent six years coaching at Division III SUNY Cortland and 18 years at Fayetteville-Manlius High School. She graduated from Cornell University in 1984 where she played lacrosse.

Taylor served as the president of the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Association from 2017 to 2020.

Taylor declined the D&C’s repeated requests for comment for their article. Colgate University issued a statement to the D&C in January 2023:

“We identified specific actions to improve the women’s lacrosse student-athlete experience and address concerns from student-athletes and parents regarding leadership approach and player development, and have been implementing these measures with the full commitment, involvement and support of Coach Taylor and the Athletics Department leadership and staff,” the statement read.

The women’s lacrosse team’s 2023 season began in February, and Taylor has remained head coach. The team holds a 1-6 record following a loss to Boston University in the opening game of the Patriot League season on Mar. 18.

This is a developing story. Follow updates on Women’s Lacrosse and Kathy Taylor from The Colgate Maroon-News here.