(FOX 9) - A Division I women's track coach has stepped down amid allegations made by a Minnesota runner and other women on the team that he weight-shamed athletes and created a toxic team environment.
Jacksonville University in Florida announced Saturday that women's track coach Ron Grigg was stepping down from his position and is no longer an employee.
The university released a statement that said in part, "Over the past few days there has been some very concerning information shared online regarding the personal experiences of some of our student-athletes... We believe, and Coach Grigg agrees, that this is the best path forward."
The Minnesotan athlete who stepped forward
Julia Pernsteiner, a Rosemount High School graduate, was on the track team at Jacksonville University for one season, after transferring to the Florida college her junior year.
Last fall, the student-athlete from Minnesota came forward with allegations of emotional abuse against the coach.
After an internal investigation by the university yielded no results, Pernsteiner turned to Jacksonville independent journalist Samantha Mathers.
"I had a healthy amount of skepticism at first," admitted Mathers. "It was when I finally got that first current runner to sit down and give me some clear details that I realized this was so much bigger than I first thought."
Pernsteiner was found in her dorm room two weeks after contacting Mathers. She died by suicide.
But Mathers didn't stop working on the story. She obtained body-cam footage of Pernsteiner, only a few weeks before her death, asking a Jacksonville Sheriff's deputy if he could help her. She described the abuse she received while on the team: "Everyone's done with you. You're the slowest (bleeping) runner on the planet. You're an awful person," Pernsteiner said.
The deputy responded by telling Pernsteiner that since emotional abuse was not a crime in Florida, there was nothing he could do. "No crime has been committed with that," he said.
Mathers pressed on. For the past week, she has been posting interviews with current and former student-athletes who appear to corroborate Pernsteiner's story. As those stories gained traction online, the university announced Grigg's resignation.
A family grieves
In Eagan, Minnesota, the Pernsteiner family is still processing the news.
"She would be very proud of her friends for coming out," said Lynne Persteiner in reference to her late daughter Julia.
Jacksonville University has said it will hire an outside law firm to investigate what happened and how the situation was handled.
"We want our community to understand that the claims made by the student in the fall of 2021 were taken seriously," a statement from the university read. "Jacksonville University Athletics has tasked an outside firm to immediately review the new information and allegations that have been shared in recent days about the experiences of other student-athletes. We take these reports very seriously."
If you or a loved one may be at risk of suicide, here are resources that can help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text to 741-741. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.
Trevor Lifeline: Call 1-866-488-7386 for the TrevorLifeline, a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community. Trained counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also speak with someone over text message or instant message.
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to text confidentially with a trained crisis counselor. Counselors are available 24/7.