The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

Follow us on Instagram

Briggs Alexander and lawyers host press conference to discuss lawsuit against Kentucky and former head coach Lars Jorgensen

Head coach Lars Jorgensen talks to assistant coaches during the UK Swimming and Diving meet against The Ohio State University on Friday, October 11, 2013, at the Lancaster Aquatic Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jonathan Krueger | Staff

Plaintiff Briggs Alexander, advocate Rachel Denhollander and his lawyers held a press conference on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, to discuss the lawsuit brought against former University of Kentucky swim and dive head coach Lars Jorgensen, UK, Gary Conelly and athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

The lawsuit claims the university not only knowingly hired Jorgensen after receiving complaints about his misconduct, but also perpetuated an unhealthy environment that allowed his behavior to continue for several years. 

During the conference, Alexander opened up about the abuse she endured starting at 17-years-old, just two days after graduating from high school.

“He, you know, basically put himself in this position where if I said anything, no one was going to believe me. My career was going to be over,” Alexander said. “He was in a position where if I didn’t have him, I had nothing.” 

Megan Bonanni, an attorney representing Alexander and Jane Doe, said the severity of the abuse allegations, not to mention the length of Jorgensen’s tenure at Kentucky, led them to believe there are more victims.

“We are convinced and have reason to believe that there are more victims and there are witnesses out there,” she said. “That is another reason for us. Coming forward today is to shine a light to make people know that it is safe to come forward.” 

Channing Robinson Holmes, another attorney representing Alexander, also confirmed the potential of more plaintiffs and witnesses coming forward later in the conference when asked.

“But we anticipate that more will come forward … we want to give them that time and space to grapple with these allegations that they’ve now seen in this lawsuit and through the media,” Holmes said. “Hopefully, they’re inspired to begin to deal with that trauma.”

Alexander said she believed that the Title IX office was there for athlete protection, but the institution had failed her when she reached out to report the abuse she was enduring.

“Months went by, and I never heard anything back. And so, I reached out. And I was just repeatedly discouraged and vigorously discouraged to not come forward and to not publish this reporting,” Alexander said. “Title IX office is there to protect us as student athletes when our coaches aren’t protecting us. In this situation, he wasn’t. We should have been able to trust the Title IX offices and none of us could and we didn’t know that.” 

According to the lawsuit, it is alleged that the athletics department was notified of Jorgensen’s troubling behavior prior to him stepping foot on campus, claiming a former colleague notified Conelly and Barnhart of sexual misconduct the day his hiring was announced.  

Prior to the press conference police had not yet been contacted. 

“I’m not aware of anyone going to law enforcement yet,” Bonanni said. “That is still being considered and weighed by our team.” 

Shortly after the press conference ended, UK released a statement saying they have contacted law enforcement and will cooperate fully.  

Kentucky released a systematic response to the allegations that led to Alexander expressing the disappointment he now feels for the university. 

“I wore the blue and white through the hardest days of my life,” Alexander said. “To know that all this has happened and there’s still no real support, I think that it hurts a lot. It hurts a lot.” 

The lawsuit hopes to bring accountability and change to the policies that allow these toxic environments to exist. 

“What UK really needs to do now is a full assessment of their policies, their culture and their practices at the university,” Denhollander said. “We can’t protect the next generation until we are honest about what went wrong.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Kentucky Kernel Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *