Stephenson cleared of all alleged violations

Interim Tennis Director Robin Stephenson was cleared of all the alleged violations made by former men's tennis coach Joerg Barthel.

Interim Women’s Tennis Director Robin Stephenson was cleared of all 10 NCAA and Georgia State allegations made against her by former men’s tennis coach Joerg Barthel. An internal investigation by Georgia State Athletics concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove Stephenson committed any violations.

Interim Tennis Director Robin Stephenson was cleared of all the alleged violations made by former men's tennis coach Joerg Barthel.
Interim Tennis Director Robin Stephenson was cleared of all the alleged violations made by former men’s tennis coach Joerg Barthel.

Stephenson was accused by Barthel of multiple recruiting violations, taking personal trips on University money, giving extra benefits to a student-athlete based on performance, and forcing men’s tennis players in participating in more matches than permissible.

“[W]e have concluded that the allegations made against Coach Stephenson by former Men’s Tennis Head Coach Joerg Barthel… [did not have] sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations,” Georgia State Athletics said in its conclusion of the investigation on April 25.

The Signal received a copy of Athletics’ investigation and verified that Barthel provided little evidence on his allegations other than his own personal claims.

The investigation included receipts turned in by Stephenson that confirmed she was only reimbursed for trips in which she recruited. None of Stephenson’s receipts showed any purchases of gifts for family and friends as Barthel claimed.

Emails and phone interviews with student-athletes and former recruits all confirmed Stephenson did not commit any recruiting violations or give benefits to a student-athlete.

The documents also confirmed the allegations against Stephenson were made by Barthel who was dismissed at the beginning of April after an internal investigation by Athletics after being found to have committed several NCAA and Georgia State violations.

Barthel told The Signal while the investigation was still ongoing that his evidence of the allegations were witnessing Stephenson commit the violations while traveling with her.

Stephenson will currently remain the Interim Tennis Director at Georgia State and oversee both the men’s and women’s tennis teams.

“After receiving allegations against the interim head women’s tennis coach, the athletic department followed the standard protocol during a full investigation. That process is now complete and as expected from the initial review, no infractions were found. Now we will focus on the team’s success and its upcoming appearance in the NCAA tournament,” Georgia State Athletics told The Signal.

Recruiting violations all disproved

Stephenson was cleared of all recruiting violations after interviews with current student-athletes and former recruits confirmed Stephenson’s side of the story.

Barthel said Stephenson had not properly documented calls made by cell phone, pay phone and her personal Skype account during the summer of 2013.

Athletics conducted several email and phone interviews in which all of the student-athletes confirmed Stephenson did not contact the recruits “during this time.”

The Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Eric Paz reviewed Stephenson’s Skype account and verified she documented all of the recruits she contacted.

Stephenson was alleged to have communicated with a recruit during a tournament twice in Frankfurt, Germany on July 28 and then again in Cologne, Germany the following day. Barthel said she paid for the recruit’s lunch in Frankfurt during the contact.

Stephenson said she watched the recruit play a match, and then happened to run into the recruit at a different tennis club the following day.

“[A]s I was walking to the parking lot of the club, [she] was arriving to film her college recruit video,” Stephenson said adding it was not planned and unknown to her that she would be there.

“I simply said hello to her and her father in the parking lot and immediately left.”

These matched recruiting logs submitted by Stephenson following the trip in which she indicated making contact and evaluating a student-athlete on that day.

Stephenson said that she did not pay for the recruit’s lunch, but met with her and her parents as they ate lunch. She and the recruit both stated in the investigation that it was the recruit’s father who paid for the lunch.

“I did not pay for anything,” Stephenson said.

Finally, Stephenson was accused of making two student-athletes and Barthel contact a student-athlete who was a recruit at the time.

One of the student-athletes said in a statement via email to Athletics that the recruit contacted him or her first, and Stephenson did not ask him or her to contact the recruit. It was unclear if the student-athlete was from the men’s or women’s tennis team as athletes from both were alleged to have contacted the athlete on behalf of Stephenson.

“I simply answered her questions and got to know her. This occurred after she had already signed,” the student-athlete said.

Traveling on University money

Travel expense logs turned in for reimbursement by Stephenson to Athletics matched with receipts turned in by Stephenson.

Barthel said Stephenson turned in receipts for a trip to Strasbourg, France where she did not recruit. Instead, Barthel said Stephenson and he had “private date nights.”

There were no receipts from any hotel in France in the documents given to The Signal, yet Stephenson did confirm she was there.

“I was not recruiting on that particular day, therefore, there was nothing to record. I was en route to another city,” Stephenson said in the investigation.

Stephenson’s other travel receipts to Germany and Canada matched up with travel reimbursements she received. Receipts even indicated personal expenses Stephenson spent while on the trips were removed from her travel expenses she turned in.

Extra benefits based on performance

Barthel said Stephenson told him she provided a particular student-athlete with Nike shoes based on her performance in a tournament in December 2013.

“I have never provided anything for a student-athlete based on performance,” Stephenson said in the investigation.

Athletics received a statement from the student-athlete via email in which she said Stephenson did not buy her shoes.

“There was no sort of activity involving my coach buying me anything because of my tennis,” the athlete told Athletics April 22.

Athletics accepted the athlete’s statement to clear Stephenson of the allegation.

Barthel had no evidence of Stephenson giving extra benefits to the student-athlete other than she had mentioned it to him after the tournament.

Permissible number of matches

Barthel firmly believed that Stephenson made an error when the date of the South Carolina State tennis match was rescheduled that led to two student-athletes going over their legal playing dates of 25 matches.

“I tried to get in touch with her when I saw she changed the match date with South Carolina State,” Barthel told The Signal during the investigation. “I knew [the athletes would] go over the dates.”

Barthel said Stephenson would not listen saying that there was nothing to talk about in regards to work.

Athletics conducted a study of the men’s tennis schedule and found that none of the student-athletes participated in more than the permissible amount of competitions.

Personal Issues

Barthel made accusations that involved Stephenson’s personal relationship the two had.

The Signal has decided not to be specific with the allegations since Barthel provided no evidence to his claims. In addition, Stephenson denied the claims saying nothing happened at campus or during office hours.

She was not found to be violating any NCAA or Georgia State violations.

Barthel told The Signal during the investigation that the two were a couple and that both tennis teams knew of their relationship.

“I [did] not [tell] my team but the student-athletes were aware of it after a few months,” Barthel said.

Barthel said Stephenson played a very important role in his life, but if the allegations against her do not lead to any consequences he “would be speechless.”

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