Any hope that the University of Guelph can now move past the allegations that got track coach Dave Scott-Thomas fired at the end of 2019 went poof last weekend after the Globe and Mail published an indepth interview with Scott-Thomas’ accuser from 2016. Over the last week, both the U of G and the City of Guelph have scrambled to show they are
In a Globe and Mail feature published last Saturday, Megan Brown explained how she was introduced to Scott-Thomas at an Ottawa cross-country meet when she was 16 years old, how he invited her to join his running club Speed River Track, and how he began grooming her for sex. Brown explained how running helped her heal after her mother’s untimely death, and then Scott-Thomas would start taking opportunities for the two of them to be alone together.
“This is when Dave basically broached the topic of a relationship between us,” Brown told the Globe. “I remember being so caught off guard by it all, because he was somebody I had become so intensely dependent on for stability. There was no undercurrent sexually, at all, for me.”
Brown went on to explain how the pressure of her relationship with Scott-Thomas, and the psychological toll it took on her, made her dependent on the track coach even after she attempted suicide in 2003. Brown started at the U of G in 2004, but she didn’t even last a year as her relationship with Scott-Thomas came to an end, and some of her teammates became aware of what was going on.
Brown said that when she told Scott-Thomas about confiding in a friend about their relationship. He got angry, physically assaulted her, and told her that her university career at Guelph was over. This argument spilled from Scott-Thomas’ office to the parking lot, where it was witnessed by one of Brown’s teammates, according to the Globe. In the end, that would be Brown’s last semester at the U of G. . “I left ostracized from the university,” she said.
As Brown focused on her health, Scott-Thomas became one of the most renowned track coaches in Canada, which, the Globe said, resulted in a more imperial Scott-Thomas who had “less time for individual athletes and became impatient with those who weren’t self-sufficient.” Former U of G student Jenn Dowling-Medley observed that her coach “developed a lot of control by creating a cult of personality. […] He’d try to come off like a cool, rebellious antihero – he has his truck, and he likes scotch and listens to punk rock. He’s kind of like the guy a lot of young men imagine they would like to be.”
Brown, meanwhile, recovered and became a student-athlete at the University of Toronto in 2005, and though she enjoyed new success on the track, she was chased by rumours of being that “crazy girl” who was obsessed with her old coach. Brown’s father, Gary Brown, took his daughter’s new life and new success as an opportunity to discreetly reach out to the President’s office at the U of G, and his MP Michael Chong, then Minister of Sport, about Scott-Thomas’ conduct.
Appeals to the government went unanswered, while Mr Brown’s appeal to the U of G generated a request from the University to do a sit-down interview with his daughter. Fearing for his daughter’s mental health, Mr. Brown asked for written questions instead, but he never got them. At the same time, the U of G hired a consultant who found that while there was an unusually strong emotional bond between the two, “Mr. Scott-Thomas did not sexually harass, physically assault or stalk Megan.”
Scott-Thomas remained Guelph’s track “guru”, which stymied Brown’s desire to run for Team Canada at the 2012 Olympics because of his big role in coaching Canada’s national track teams. Brown and her husband eventually moved to British Columbia and they recently started a family, she only runs now for recreation now. Scott-Thomas remained the star of Guelph’s track team until last fall when new accusations came forward.
University officials who were mentioned in the Globe story, including former President Alastair Summerlee and former vice-president of student affairs Brenda Whiteside, did not respond to requests for comment, but with the new revelations from the Globe, the onus is now on the U of G, and others, to explain themselves.
The University of Guelph
After the publication of the Globe and Mail story, the University of Guelph released a lengthy statement, and accepted some share of responsibility for how the Scott-Thomas was handled. “The behavior of Scott-Thomas is both shocking and disturbing. The University extends its apologies to all athletes, students and co-workers who experienced this behavior,” it read.
“In recent months, the University has started the process of making personal and public apologies and offered support to those who endured suffering and hardship, and we will continue to reach out to and help former and current athletes,” the statement added.
The U of G said that many of the details reported in the Globe article were “unknown until now,” but like in so many cases like this, it seemed that the details were waiting for someone to put them together. Brown’s former teammates at the U of G, her coaches after she left the U of G, and officials with Athletics Canada were all aware of the allegations, as was the U of G’s former athletics director Tom Kendall.
Back in December, the University said that they terminated Scott-Thomas after it “became privy to new information regarding past unprofessional conduct,” but according to the Globe, they presented the U of G with a summery of allegations against Scott-Thomas and the U of G admin from 2006 on December 13. Scott-Thomas as fired four days later.
On Monday, the University released a more damning statement from current U of G President Franco Vaccarino. “As a university president, as a teacher, and as a father, I was upset and dismayed by what I read,” he said of the Globe piece. “The behaviour reported in the article involved violations of trust, of coaching standards and protocols, and of the Gryphon values we hold so highly, especially those of ensuring student safety, health and well-being.”
Vaccarino commended the strength of those who came forward, and pledged that the U of G will continue to work to make improvements to the organization so that nothing like this will happen again. He also did something that the U of G has seen reticent to do in this entire episode, which is accepting a share of personal responsibility for what happened to Brown and others.
“[Scott-Thomas’] termination from U of G does not – and cannot – make up for the fact that people experienced hardships and suffering,” said Vaccarino. “For this, I am truly sorry. I extend a personal apology to any current or former student-athletes who experienced inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour.”
Canada’s national governing body for running and track was also not well served by the Globe article, which makes it clear that not only was Athletics Canada aware that there was an inappropriate relationship between Brown and Scott-Thomas, but seemed actively unwilling to do anything about it.
As outlined in the story, when Brown’s father brought the allegations to then Minister of Sport Chong, Joanne Mortimore, the CEO of Athletics Canada at the time, was more upset about Brown going over her head than about the allegations.
“Athletics Canada acknowledges the deeply disturbing allegations in today’s Globe and Mail story concerning former athlete Megan Brown and her ex-coach Dave Scott-Thomas,” Athletics Canada said in its own statement last Saturday.
Missing from the statement though is any contrition. “It is important to note that no complaint was made against Mr. Scott-Thomas, to either Athletics Canada or it’s independent Commissioner’s Office, since the inception of the independent Commissioner’s Office in 2015,” it added. “The new allegations against Scott-Thomas were only made last fall.”
In the Globe story, it was reported that there was a meeting between Scott-Thomas and Mortimore in either late-2006 or early-2007 where Mortimore asked the track coach about Brown. Scott-Thomas apparently said of the relationship that, “it was a mistake, it will never happen again.” His status in Athletics Canada was not only unaffected, instead it was enhanced. Mortimore’s successor as CEO of Athletics Canada, Rob Guy, was also made aware of the allegations.
“As the investigation into Mr. Scott-Thomas is an active investigation at this time, Athletics Canada will have no further involvement until such time as the independent Commissioner’s Office issues its findings and any recommended actions,” the statement said.
The City of Guelph
Dave Scott-Thomas was inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame in 2018 as a “builder”, one of three categories that the Hall of Fame recognizes for recognition. All inductees get their portrait place on the wall at the Sleeman Centre downtown, but Scott-Thomas face has been removed from the wall, and from being referenced at all by the Hall of Fame.
On Wednesday, the Guelph Mercury Tribune reported that the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame “made the unanimous decision to remove Dave Scott-Thomas from the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame effective immediately.”
“The Board of Directors reserves the right to remove an inducted member from the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame after careful review of supporting public information on actions deemed to be extraordinary undesirable or demonstrate detrimental conduct,” said Heather Flaherty, the general manager of Parks and Recreation in a statement.
Sources noticed that the plaque was missing at the Sleeman Centre, and when asked Flaherty said that it had been removed until the Board could finalize a decision. The Hall of Fame also seems to have removed the notice of Scott-Thomas’ induction from its website. This Global News piece from 2018 lists Scott-Thomas as one of five inductees for that year along with golfer Bryan DeCorso, sport shooter Charles Robert Crowe, football player Rob Paven, and 2003 Guelph Royals Midget AAA baseball team.
Flaherty condemned the alleged conduct of Scott-Thomas as “undesirable and detrimental.”