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    Idaho volleyball practice Thursday with Chris Gonzalez described as ‘weird’
    • January 19, 2024

    Idaho volleyball players completed without incident Thursday afternoon their first practice with head coach Chris Gonzalez since Gonzalez has been under investigation for allegedly bullying and abusing players during his two seasons at the Big Sky Conference school.

    During the hour-long practice, Gonzalez did not address the investigation by a Texas law firm hired by the university or the 9,000-word December 30 Southern California News Group report that prompted an expansion of the investigation, according to players.

    Only eight of the team’s 12 current members attended the practice Thursday. Three players chose not to attend after the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Investigation granted players the option of not attending practices where Gonzalez is present. Another player was unable to practice after recently undergoing surgery.

    To date, 12 current or former Idaho players, six parents and three university employees maintain that Gonzalez has bullied and physically, verbally and emotionally abused Vandals players, pressured them to play or practice while injured and denied athletes food throughout his two seasons at Idaho. Gonzalez also allegedly pushed or shoved two players to the ground during practices in 2022 and improperly touched athletes, according to player interviews and university documents

    The practice was also attended by Beth Ropski, the case manager assigned by the dean of students to the volleyball case, and Jackie Gharapour Wernz, the OCRI’s interim director. Ropski told players in an email on Tuesday that she plans “to attend all practices where your coach/assistant coaches will be present.”

    Wernz is also a partner at Thompson & Horton, the law firm conducting the investigation of Gonzalez.

    Gonzalez was “smiling, upbeat,” said Vandals player Emma Patterson. “He introduced himself to Beth and Jackie, joked with them.”

    “It was weird, uncomfortable, I guess,” Patterson said.

    The team resumes practice Friday morning.


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    ​ Orange County Register