This past August, Keene State College announced that one of the college’s champion-winning cross country coaches, Peter Thomas, had been put on administrative leave and was under investigation. A statement released Nov. 20 by Vice President of Student Affairs Kemal Atkins stated that Thomas would not be returning to KSC.
“Peter Thomas, on administrative leave from his duties as head coach of the Men’s and Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country teams, will not be returning to the college,” Atkins stated.
The reason for this decision is not being disclosed, due to the college’s personnel policy. The Equinox scheduled interviews with KSC President Anne Huot and Athletic Director John Ratliff, only for them to be cancelled.
Although the cross country team was the first to be informed on the decision, according to Kaley Mientkiewicz, senior and women’s cross country runner, student athletes are still being left in the dark.
“[John] Ratliff and Kemal [Atkins] came and they said ‘the decision has been made, you know, we regret to inform you, but Pete [Thomas] will not be coming back’ — and that’s really all we were told,” Mientkiewicz said.
When asked if athletes were allowed to ask additional questions during the meeting, Mientkiewicz said teammates asked questions such as, “Can we contact Pete?” Mientkiewicz explained, “We weren’t allowed to [talk to Thomas] before, but they implied that we could [now]. They weren’t like, ‘go call him!,’ but they were like, we can’t tell you you can’t. The investigation is over.”
Atkins’ statement also announced that Tom Pickering,who has been an assistant coach for the past three years, has been appointed interim head coach for both the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams.
“The college expresses full confidence in Pickering’s abilities to lead the teams through this academic year. A search for the permanent head coach will begin in the spring,” Atkins stated.
Similar to Thomas’s case, another longtime KSC coach, Charlie Beach, who coached softball, also had his contract non-renewed at the beginning of the fall semester.
In a statement made to The Keene Sentinel, John Ratliff said, “The health and safety of the student-athletes is of primary importance … These things have taken a toll. We’ll leave it at that. It’s tough.”