Idaho Vandals

University of Idaho diving coach placed on leave amid investigation into his past

The University of Idaho’s Administration Building in Moscow.
The University of Idaho’s Administration Building in Moscow. Statesman file

University of Idaho diving coach Jim Southerland has been placed on paid administrative leave after he was given an interim suspension by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and USA Diving, U of I athletics spokesman Michael Walsh confirmed Friday.

Southerland's status, and details of the accusation against him, were reported by USA Today earlier in the day.

Southerland and USA Diving informed U of I about the suspension on April 11, Walsh said. The university officially placed him on leave April 13, Walsh said, pending the investigation.

Southerland, who was the co-diving coach of the year in the Western Athletic Conference this year, is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a diver he was coaching before 2010, USA Today reported. He didn't join the staff at Idaho until 2015.

The accusation was made by Southerland's ex-wife, Patti McEuen, who told USA Today the diver reached out to her for help with the relationship. The diver was 17 to 20 years old when the relationship happened, McEuen told USA Today. The King County (Wash.) Sheriff's Office investigated the incident in 2015 and determined no crime was committed even if it was true, USA Today reported. The age of consent in Washington is 16.

According to USA Today: "The U.S. Center for SafeSport opened last year to investigate sexual misconduct allegations and to help protect athletes from abuse and misconduct. The center has jurisdiction over national governing bodies in Olympic sports but does not have jurisdiction over NCAA-member institutions — meaning its suspension isn’t enforceable on him at Idaho or the WAC."

The SafeSport and USA Diving decision was made Feb. 18, according to USA Today. It's unclear why the university wasn't notified sooner.

Earlier Friday, the State Board of Education announced that it wouldn't renew the contract of U of I President Chuck Staben. Athletic Director Rob Spear is on administrative leave while the university looks into his department's handling of past complaints of sexual harassment and assault involving athletes.