At the end of March, just days prior to the Garden City Community College cheerleading team’s scheduled performance in a national championship event, then head coach Brice Knapp resigned from his post after four years.
For nearly two weeks, GCCC administration did not explain Knapp’s sudden resignation, until multiple community members and a former cheerleader raised allegations of misconduct against Knapp — from incidents that allegedly spanned at least three years — during and directly after the April 10 GCCC Board of Trustees meeting.
Shortly after, the college told The Telegram that Knapp was the subject of at least three investigations since March 2015 into his conduct and his program, the last of which was still ongoing when Knapp resigned. In the days and weeks following, the college acknowledged receiving letters from multiple then-current and former cheerleaders, as well as a parent of a former cheerleader, detailing allegations of harassment, sexual innuendo and intimidation.
Knapp’s resignation and the allegations against the former coach is The Telegram’s No. 5 local news story of 2018.
“This coach should have been stopped a long time ago, and I’m ashamed every time someone asks me where I cheered. I never want to say Garden City Community College,” Yulissa Hernandez said during an informal address to the Board of Trustees on April 10, after the board had denied Hernandez time during the meeting because she had not signed up for the public comment section beforehand. “Shame on those who did nothing about this situation. I wish I was proud to be a Broncbuster.”
Hernandez’s comments echoed statements made by community members Toni Douglass, Aaron Kucharik and Eleanor Everett during the April 10 public comments portion of the meeting, in which they said they had read multiple letters from former cheerleaders detailing alleged misconduct on the part of Knapp.
“These young women all have one thing in common,” Douglass, a then-member of the Broncbuster Athletic Association, told the board. “They were sexually harassed on this campus by one man in a position of authority and power pressed over them. He made horrible, sexual remarks to them about their bodies, their boyfriends and about being a woman in general.”
Kucharik was the secretary of the GCCC Endowment Association at the time, and Everett was the mother of former GCCC cheerleader Liz Everett, who The Telegram subsequently learned was the author of two of the letters referenced during the April 10 meeting.
The Telegram obtained Everett’s letters, as well as three others that detailed complaints against Knapp.
In response to some of the allegations from the letters being read in the board meeting, nine then-current and former GCCC cheerleaders defended Knapp in a long interview with all at The Telegram.
Dewayne Reed, Vionna Van Dyne, Mercedez Showers, Melanie Veliz, and Chelsea Bours, as well as Allie Knoll, Alejandra Gutierrez, Johnny Bland and Erwin Vides shared their experiences with Knapp as being overall positive. A few credited Knapp for getting them to enroll in college.
They all said that they did not believe the allegations against Knapp.
“I wouldn’t be here if I thought there was a chance Brice was sexually harassing anybody,” Mercedez Showers, who had been on the team since spring 2017, said at the time. “No matter how much Brice has done for me, if I thought it was true, I wouldn’t be here right now. I think I speak for everyone here, I don’t believe it. I just don’t think it’s true.”
The first letter the college confirmed to have received alleging misconduct by Knapp was sent in June 2017, detailing an investigation by GCCC into the cheerleading program that occurred in 2015, after the team had traveled to Wichita for a regional cheerleading competition.
The college’s attorney, Randy Grisell, confirmed there was an investigation in 2015, but did not say what the scope of the investigation entailed or the reason why the investigation was begun.
According to the letter — the author’s name was redacted in the copy obtained by The Telegram — Knapp encouraged five cheerleaders to press their bare buttocks to a window in Knapp’s hotel room so he could take a photo, a copy of which The Telegram obtained.
Two cheerleaders who claim to be in the photo — Yanira Ruiz and Myranda Ortiz — differed in their recollections of how the photo came to be, saying the cheerleaders asked Knapp to take the photo. They all agreed, however, that Knapp did take the photo.
Grisell confirmed that the college, in 2017, investigated the taking of the photo and it “was addressed with the employee.”
In the other letters — Everett’s two letters, another written by Sydney Rodriguez, and another written by Laura Aberle, the mother of former cheerleader Lindsey Aberle — Knapp was accused of making various sexual comments towards cheerleaders, asking how many people cheerleaders had had sex with, and would threaten cheerleaders for behavior of which Knapp did not approve.
“I didn’t want to be around him. I felt vulnerable … ” Rodriguez wrote in her letter. “I am a strong woman, and for him to be able to make me feel uncomfortable means a lot. It’s not easy for me to feel that way.”
Liz Everett’s letters also detailed a Feb. 23 meeting with Knapp, former GCCC Athletic Director John Green, former assistant athletic director Kevin Schlegel, and an unnamed male cheerleader who Everett had alleged to the college was blackmailing her for sexual favors.
Liz Everett claims in the letter that she became scared during the meeting — particularly of Knapp, who Everett claimed to have previously threatened to revoke Everett’s scholarship —and text messaged Douglass, who in the past was a host parent for GCCC athletes, to come to the meeting.
Douglass confirmed to The Telegram, and provided proof of the text messages she received, that she did go to the meeting. According to Douglass, the matter was then referred to then-vice president of student services Ryan Ruda.
The college did not confirm that the third and final investigation was prompted by Everett’s complaints, but the college, shortly after, did enlist the services of Beverly G. Temaat, the vice president of student affairs and risk management at Dodge City Community College, to “independently investigate the allegations made in the parent letter, and two subsequent letters from students,” Grisell said at the time.
While that investigation was being conducted, the college determined that Knapp would not travel with the cheerleading team to a national event in Florida in April, and according to Grisell, Knapp then decided to resign.
Knapp never responded to any calls or text messages seeking comment in the months after his resignation, nor after the discovery of the letters detailing allegations against him.