Former cheerleading head coach Amanda Hoppert has denied all allegations that were made against her while at JMU.
In an article published April 26, The Breeze obtained an anonymous letter that claimed Hoppert caused physical, emotional, financial and academic harm to athletes and their families. Hoppert has since denied all the accusations in the article.
JMU Athletics said in April that the evaluation of Hoppert was ongoing before the letter was sent. Hoppert denies knowing she was being evaluated.
“[The cheerleading team] is evaluated from an athletic standpoint, an academic standpoint, a team culture perspective and, then, how well we feel the coach meets all criteria,” JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. “It very much parallels the manner and the way in which we go about evaluating our other coaches.”
When discussing team culture, Bourne clarified JMU looks at how students conduct themselves at off-the-field activities. He says the evaluations of coaches are “exhaustive” and include feedback from other athletics offices.
“My biggest thing is, if there was a situation about the culture, why would you not come to me first?” Hoppert said. “I do know that other coaches, when it has been an issue, have been talked to first about the culture before they would just get rid of them.”
Hoppert expressed her frustration for lacking a full-time assistant coach, claiming one coach for 45 athletes is difficult for any sport. Bourne was unable to comment on this, as it’s university policy to not discuss personnel matters.
The letter claims Hoppert shared students’ academic standing with others. Hoppert denies this, saying she wasn’t aware of most of the students’ grade point averages while she was the coach.
“The academic advisor controls all of the grades and lets me know who needs to be in study hours,” Hoppert said. “That is not something I control. I will say that Athletics does a good job with that by including us as a sport, but therefore, the academic advisor takes control of that.”
Hoppert states she deletes names of athletes in emails regarding grades besides the ones she’s directly sending it to. She also knows not to “send a list” to athletes. Kaitlyn Barrett, the academic advisor for cheerleading, didn’t respond to comment.
In reference to the accusation stating members who weren’t academically eligible were able to travel with the team, Hoppert clarified that the team doesn’t follow NCAA academic guidelines since cheerleading isn’t an NCAA-mandated sport. She says JMU still treats it like other sports and that the team does have standards in place.
“I had created a standard for being able to travel. Not everybody agreed with it, but it wasn’t under the NCAA,” Hoppert said. “Everything was talked with my supervisor and she approved everything and everybody that would go. So, everything was approved not just by me. It would be a team rule enforced, if anything, but I can tell you my supervisor and my academic adviser were always in control of that.”
In the article published in April, it confirmed with an anonymous source that Hoppert spoke “poorly about and laughed about a male member of the team, traded information about teammates with athletes and engaged in rumor mill gossip.” Hoppert denies this, stating former interim head coach Tyler Bradley removed the athlete due to a violation of team rules. When the member returned to the team, they weren’t on the competitive squad, but the athlete accepted it. Bradley denied to comment on the situation.
The letter claimed Hoppert forgot to place an order for food before a JMU football game against Robert Morris in 2018. Hoppert explained that because the game was moved from Saturday, Sept. 15 to Thursday, Sept. 13 — due to the threat of Hurricane Florence — it created confusion with the restaurant providing the food. She notes because the game started while classes were still going for the day, it was difficult for the restaurant to deliver the food on time.
The letter accused Hoppert of continually saying “lack of funds” as the reason as to why some games weren’t catered, but the budget for the cheerleading team confirms there aren’t funds set aside for food for home games.
Hoppert joined JMU in July of 2016 and was the coach until she stepped down in April. The search for a permanent head coach is still ongoing.
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.