UMKC coach was accused of sexual harassment. Now he’s fired because of team’s record

The University of Missouri-Kansas City assistant women’s softball coach accused last year of sexual harassment by former players has been terminated, along with his boss.

Assistant coach Greg Bachkora and head coach Meredith Neal were let go because UMKC’s athletic director “is looking to improve the softball team’s performance in competition,” according to a statement released Tuesday.

“After careful review and evaluation of our softball program, it is time for a change in leadership,” said Director of Athletics Brandon Martin.

University officials said Martin made a similar move with men’s basketball earlier this year when he let go the head coach and his coaching staff. The statement said that such coaching changes are “common under new leadership.”

Martin, who joined UMKC in December, thanked Neal but made no mention of Bachkora’s work with the team: “We appreciate coach Neal’s contribution to our student athletes and softball program. We wish her the best moving forward personally and professionally.”

Neal compiled a 265-408 record in 14 seasons as the Kangaroos’ head coach. After a nine-game winning streak earlier this season, UMKC finished 2019 at 27-29. The program has never participated in the NCAA Tournament.

Neal’s best season came in 2011, when UMKC finished with 38 victories, 18 in conference play.

While university officials said the terminations are not related to the allegations of sexual harassment, they come three months after The Star reported that several former UMKC softball players complained to university officials that they had been sexually harassed by Bachkora, who joined UMKC in September 2016.

The players said that on numerous occasions Bachkora had barged into the women’s locker room while players were dressing, saying he needed to use a microwave oven there.

One player’s father told The Star, “Some girls would have to cover themselves or duck behind the couch, scrambling to cover themselves.”

The women also said that Bachkora had kissed some of the players and once joked in front of them about female genitalia.

Bachkora admitted in a Title IX review, documented by the university and acquired by The Star, that he had repeatedly entered the locker room but said he never saw any players unclothed. He apologized for telling the joke and said he had only kissed players on the forehead or cheek in a “fatherly, non-sexual manner.”

Bachkora was not disciplined. In response to the complaints, the university bought a new microwave for Bachkora and other employees to use in a common area and made a note of the complaints and his admission in his personal file.

Following the Star’s report on the complaints and the university’s response to them, some current members of the UMKC softball team said they had not experienced the same behavior from Bachkora described by the former players.

As the Roos’ 2019 season was about to start, Bachkora volunteered to take a temporary leave while the university’s new athletics director reviewed all aspects of UMKC softball, including the allegations.

When that review was done in March, the athletics department reported it “found no issues of concern that require any further corrective action,” and Bachkora returned to his coaching duties.

Bachkora and Neal could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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Mará has written on all things education for The Star for 20 years, including issues of school safety, teen suicide, universal pre-K programs, college costs, campus protests and university branding.