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Ex-Kentucky swimmers sue, allege sexual assault by then-coach


Two former Kentucky swimmers filed a lawsuit against the school, its athletic director and former swim coach Lars Jorgensen on Friday, claiming the coach sexually assaulted them and that the university ignored warnings about his alleged inappropriate behavior toward women.

The lawsuit states that Jorgensen “forcibly raped” former Kentucky swimmer Briggs Alexander, who was a graduate student at the time of the first alleged assault and, later, an assistant coach for the team. Another unnamed former swimmer claims Jorgensen groped, harassed and attempted to have sex with her in 2022 while she was an assistant coach. The lawsuit also details an allegation made by a third unnamed woman who is not a plaintiff and who says Jorgensen “forcibly raped” her in 2013 during his first year as the team’s head coach.

Jorgensen did not respond to a phone call from ESPN. He told The Athletic, which first reported Friday’s lawsuit, that none of the allegations against him were true.

Jay Blanton, a university spokesman, said the school takes any allegations of misconduct “very seriously” but does not “discuss specific personnel issues.”

Jorgensen resigned as Kentucky coach in June. The university did not provide any detail about why Jorgensen was leaving the swim team when it announced his resignation.

According to the lawsuit, multiple other coaches at Kentucky witnessed Jorgensen groping swimmers or his assistants during his decade with the program. On one occasion in 2015 or 2016, the suit says, a coach reported his alleged behavior to the university’s Title IX office.

Mark Howard, who had coached with Jorgensen at the University of Toledo, told the plaintiffs’ attorneys that he emailed Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart and the swim team’s then-head coach Gary Conelly when Jorgensen was first hired as an associate head coach in 2012 to warn them about a previous alleged incident of sexual misconduct. According to the lawsuit, Howard wrote that “a former Toledo swimmer made it known to me about a sexual relationship she had with Lars begore (sic) she had graduated. … This is no joke at all and I cannot stomach the fact that he will be coaching women again.”

According to the lawsuit, Conelly, who is named as a defendant, thanked Howard for sharing the “disturbing allegation” but did not follow up further with Howard. Conelly told The Athletic that he contacted the former Toledo swimmer, who told him she began dating Jorgensen after her swimming career. He said it “bothers me a little bit” but that it’s not uncommon for coaches to have a relationship with one of their former swimmers.

Barnhart did not respond to Howard’s email, the lawsuit says.

An athletic department spokesperson did not respond to a request to speak with Barnhart. Blanton said the university reviews any concerns raised about employees or potential employees “before a hire is made or an employee is retained.” He also said the school allows claimants or potential victims to decide if they want to participate in investigations about any alleged misconduct.

Alexander, who now identifies as male, said he reported the details of Jorgensen’s alleged assault to a university Title IX officer in June 2023. The woman who says she was assaulted in 2013 also shared details about her alleged rape with the Title IX office around the same time. The Title IX office was investigating a different complaint about Jorgensen’s “coaching tactics,” according to the lawsuit.

Alexander and the other woman say the Title IX officer “vigorously discouraged” them from filing an official report of sexual assault. According to the lawsuit, their complaints to the Title IX office were unresolved because Jorgensen had left the university.

In November, the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which adjudicates complaints of sexual abuse and other misconduct for Olympic sports, issued a temporary measure against Jorgensen that included a ban on unsupervised coaching and a no-contact order following allegations of misconduct, according to its website.


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