Current, former athletes come to track coach's defense
The sun sets over Roy P. Drachman Track and Field Stadium Tuesday, Nov. 24.
A letter from former and current University of Arizona track and field athletes defending the character of embattled head coach Fred Harvey gave the perception of a program that wanted to speak with one voice.
Now, some of the athletes who signed their names to the letter are speaking out with stories of support of the coach. They include former Olympians, an NFL player and a current member of the team.
“He is the main reason I made it to the Olympics,” said 2012 Olympian and one of Harvey’s former hurdlers Georganne Moline. “If it wasn’t for Coach Harvey and my mom … I would have quit track a long time ago.”
Notice of claim
A $10 million notice of claim filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s office against the UA by William Walker, attorney for former UA track and cross-country runner Michael Grabowski, accused Harvey of assault.
Grabowski claims he was bullied and harassed by two “star runners,” whose names are redacted in the notice of claim. He claims nothing was done after he brought the bullying to his immediate coach, cross-country coach James Li.
“You can’t single out the two best runners on the team,” Li allegedly said, according to the notice of claim.
Grabowski further claims Harvey summoned him to his McKale Center office for a meeting that also purportedly included Li and assistant cross-country coach Hanna Peterson on Sept. 12, 2018.
Associate athletic trainer Ben Crawford also eventually joined in on the meeting and locked the door, and during the meeting, Harvey allegedly informed Grabowski he was no longer a part of the track program.
When Grabowski inquired why, “Fred Harvey became irate, approached Mr. Grabowski, grabbed him by the wrists and threw him down. At this point, Mr. Grabowski fainted,” the claim states.
The claim alleges Crawford called 911 in response and reported Grabowski had attempted to commit suicide. When police arrived, according to the claim, Grabowski agreed to be transported to Banner University Medical Center — not due to a suicide attempt, but instead because he had fainted.
Due to the ordeal, Grabowski names Harvey, along with other coaches and UA Athletics administrators in the claim, as being complicit and responsible in their roles as state employees.
In a statement at the end of the notice, Walker addresses the UA, saying he and his client believe the case, “if not settled, will result in a large verdict at trial.”
“We seek only what justice requires,” it said.
‘It’s important that the truth comes out’
Within the pages of the notice of claim, Harvey is painted as an aloof figurehead, unconcerned with reports of bullying.
By contrast, the portrait emerging of Harvey after interviews with alumni and current athletes is of a man who cares for his athletes and their goals above all else, not just on the track, but in life.
That’s why Gerhard de Beer, former UA discus-thrower and football player and current member of the Green Bay Packers, decided to sign his name to the letter supporting Harvey. It’s also why he choose to speak out himself.
“You know for me, it’s important that the truth come out,” de Beer said. “Craig Carte, [ex track coach], went through some things, and I wasn’t about to put my name out there for him, because he was guilty.”
Carter, who originally recruited de Beer to UA, was convicted last year of two counts of aggravated assault against a former throwing athlete he was having an affair with. He is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
Since de Beer’s girlfriend still lives in Tucson, and since most of the football staff he worked with in his time at the UA are gone, he said he seeks out Harvey when he comes to workout in McKale Center.
“He’s always been excited for me, he was happy to see when I played for the first time too,” de Beer said, referencing his Packers debut. “He was watching then, and he has always been supportive of my choices.”
De Beer said he has talked with Harvey about the accusations, and although they bother him, de Beer said Harvey does not let it seep into how he prepares his athletes or treats people.
“Coach Harvey, he’s a man who is placed in the wrong place at the wrong time and is completely innocent in the process,” de Beer said.
‘A big part of why I came here’
For Tiana Bonds-Marshall, a senior hurdler from Las Vegas, Harvey was everpresent before she even got on campus. He also seemed to have a different pitch than other coaches and recruiters.
“He was just the most sweetest, awesome guy ever,” Bonds-Marshall said. “And you could tell right away his impact on the team made it kind of a family. I really liked the feel of that, and that’s why I decided to come here.”
That family-like atmosphere is also what attracted Moline to the program. Like Bonds-Marshall, she credits Harvey with getting her on campus.
Before Moline met Harvey during a track meet in her senior year of high school, she was planning to go anywhere but UA.
“I’m from Phoenix, and I told my mom, ‘there is no way I’m going to UA,’” she said. “I was thinking of SDSU or Florida State.”
But then Harvey showed up. Moline said he approached her promising to focus on her goals and not necessarily the programs.
“I want to help you, whatever your goals are, whatever they may be, I want to help you reach those,” Moline recallls Harvey saying. “It was such a different conversation than the other coaches.”
Both Moline and Bonds-Marshall echoed how Harvey’s different, personal approach keeps athletes coming back to train even after their UA careers are over.
Bonds-Marshall said the bond is so strong, she invited Harvey to her wedding last summer.
“Coach Harvey is probably the only person, other than my parents, that never gave up on me,” Bonds-Marshall said.
‘Is a chicken capable of flying across country?’
All three of the ahtletes interviewed expressed extreme doubt about the accusations leveled against Harvey in Grabowski’s notice of claim.
According to Moline, Harvey is incapable of such an act. Bonds-Marshall said she had never seen Harvey even lose his cool.
From de Beer’s perspective, he said Harvey’s demeanor was much more laid back than another one of his coach’s: ex-UA football coach Rich Rodriguez.
“Is a chicken capable of flying across the country?” de Beer said. “All he does is stream out positivity and work ethic.”