Investigation continues into Valdez’s resignation

By Daily Illini Staff Report

The University’s Department of Athletics confirmed the Oct. 17 resignation of assistant men’s gymnastics coach Jon Valdez on Tuesday amid charges of driving under the influence filed by authorities in Waukesha County, Wis..

The Chicago Tribune, citing an unnamed source, said Valdez was also being investigated by the University police for “possible misconduct.”

Robin Kaler, the University’s associate chancellor and director for public affairs, said Monday that campus police were investigating a camera found in a locker room on campus. Access to the room was limited to specific people, according to the police department.

Interim Executive Director for Public Safety Jeff Christensen did not confirm or deny Valdez’s involvement in the investigation. When asked if the men’s gymnastics team had access to the locker room in which the camera was found, Christensen said, “It’s an open investigation, you know it has to do with the men’s gymnastics team; I don’t know what else to tell you.”

Kaler declined to say whether the camera investigation was linked to Valdez’s resignation.

When asked if the police had spoken with the men’s gymnastics team about the incident, Christensen said: “Rest assured, we’ve talked to everyone involved.”

The police have the camera as evidence and are conducting forensic examinations, University police Lt. Roy Acree said. He added that the department is trying to get a report to the state’s attorney by Wednesday. Valdez, who served as a trainer for U.S. gymnasts in Beijing, filed formal papers of resignation on Oct. 17, Sports Information Director Kent Brown said.

“We don’t normally announce resignations,” Brown said. “We announce hirings; We announce retirements. If somebody is to leave and take another job we usually allow the other school to make the announcement for the hiring, but resignations we don’t normally announce those. We don’t send that out in a press release or anything.”

A Sept. 18 arrest in Wisconsin on charges of drunken driving played a part in Valdez’s decision to leave the program. He pleaded not guilty to the charge on Oct. 20.

“I can’t go into the details of his resignation other than to say he was undergoing some serious personal issues and that was one of them,” Chicago attorney Lance Northcutt said.He added that Valdez’s resignation was voluntary.

Northcutt is one of two attorneys representing Valdez. Attorney Christopher Strohbehn of Waukesha, Wis., is representing Valdez in the drunken driving charge. A student found the small wireless camera inside a locker on Sept. 25, Acree said. It was pointed out of the locker through a small opening and “would be able to capture images of people changing their clothes,” he said.

Acree said the camera wasn’t transmitting images to a computer or the Internet but wouldn’t say whether investigators found any stored images.

“We can confirm that we are investigating an incident on campus where a camera was found in a locker room,” Acree said Tuesday. “It was not a public locker room. It was an isolated locker room where not everybody has access.”Northcutt declined to discuss the investigation’s details.

“Right now, no charges have been filed. And we have not been told by anyone that charges will be filed,” Northcutt said. “We are cooperating with the investigation and will continue to cooperate as best as we can.”

Valdez was a U.S. Olympic coach in Beijing and the personal coach for Illinois gymnastics coach Justin Spring, who won a bronze medal with the men’s team. USA Gymnastics released a statement on the investigation Tuesday afternoon.

“USA Gymnastics will follow the progress of this investigation and address the issue accordingly,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics.

Illinois head gymnastics coach Yoshi Hayasaki said Tuesday that he didn’t think Valdez resigned because of the DUI arrest but declined to comment further.

Brown said the search for Valdez’s replacement is expected to conclude by the end of the week but would not elaborate on any potential candidates. Valdez had been on the Illini coaching staff since 2000. On April 25, the University announced Valdez had been promoted from assistant coach and would succeed Hayasaki as head coach when the veteran retired following the 2008-09 season. Brown confirmed Hayasaki still plans to step down at the end of the season.

“Well just like every hiring we do, we have a large list of outlets including NCAA online through the campus hiring job postings, all the regular outlets we use for posting jobs especially when it comes to specific sports,” Brown said of the search for Valdez’s replacement. “Sometimes there are specific publications or Web sites that deal with those sports so those are sometimes included as well. It’s whatever our typical posting places are, those are all the ones that we hit.”

Brown added that he “is not sure where Jon’s at” right now. The Associated Press visited his listed residence in Urbana, but a realtor that answered said she did not know where he was.

Jim Shay, Meghan Montemurro, Hannah Hess, Mark Rivera and The Associated Press contributed to this report