Embattled Distance Running Coach Steps Down

The Murr Center
The Murr Center houses a number of Athletics Department administrative offices.
UPDATED: June 29, 2017 at 12:18 p.m.

Patrick Wales-Dinan, a Harvard track coach who was the subject of several investigations into his leadership of the women’s distance running program, will step down from his position at the end of the month.

The head coach of the track program, Jason S. Saretsky, announced Wales-Dinan’s departure in an email to program members Tuesday. During his three years as coach, Wales-Dinan became embroiled in controversy for his polarizing coaching style as many women left the teams—the program shrank from 23 members in Wales-Dinan’s first year to just 11 in his third.

While some lauded him as a successful and supportive coach, other former and current team members charged that Wales-Dinan encouraged unhealthy eating habits and created a toxic culture on the team. In October, some former members of the team asked for Athletics Director Robert L. Scalise to fire Wales-Dinan.

“We all ran under Patrick [Wales-Dinan] at one point or another, now are no longer members of the Harvard Cross Country and Track programs, and feel strongly that he should not be either,” the former athletes wrote in an email to Scalise and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana obtained by The Crimson.

The behavior and complaints spurred a series of investigations conducted by the team’s faculty fellows, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences human resources department, and the College’s Title IX office. The Crimson reported on the numerous investigations and an increasingly divided women’s cross country team in March.

Saretsky wrote that the Athletics Department will conduct a national search for a new coach and will include student athlete feedback in the process.

“Harvard Athletics and I are committed to hiring an outstanding coach that embodies our values as an Ivy League athletics program,” Saretsky wrote.

Formal inquiries into Wales-Dinan began months ago. In October 2016, Wales-Dinan became the focus of a brief Title IX review after his interactions with an athlete in a online training video caused debate on the online running forum LetsRun. That review prompted a broader human resources investigation into the team’s culture.

More recently, in a op-ed published in The Crimson earlier this month, Lauren B. Kuntz, a volunteer coach with the track program, described a “hostile environment” on the women’s cross country team. She charged members of the coaching staff with endangering the health and wellbeing of athletes, encouraging unhealthy eating habits and overtraining, Kuntz declined to comment on Wales-Dinan’s departure.

Scalise responded to Kuntz’s letter in a letter to The Crimson days later, writing that the investigation into the team had concluded and “revealed a number of areas that must be addressed.”

“The Athletics Department is currently in the process of implementing the recommendations resulting from the investigation and is committed to making visible and meaningful progress,” Scalise wrote.

Athletics Department spokesperson Timothy J. Williamson declined to comment on whether Wales-Dinan’s resignation is directly connected to the HR investigation.

Human Evolutionary Biology Department Chair Daniel E. Lieberman, one of the program’s faculty fellows, also declined to comment on Wales-Dinan’s departure but wrote in an email that he is hopeful the program will continue to address concerns in the future.

“Let’s just say that I am in touch with numerous runners, past and present, on the team and continue to have a wide range of concerns that need to be addressed,” Lieberman wrote. “I very much hope we will make progress on all these issues in the coming months.”

Wales-Dinan did not respond to request for comment.

—Staff writer Brittany N. Ellis can be reached at brittany.ellis@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @britt_ellis10.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: June 29, 2017

A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated that Lauren B. Kuntz is an assistant distance running coach for Harvard track. In fact, she is a volunteer coach for the Harvard Track and Field team and does not focus specifically on distance running.

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