Oregon State volleyball coach Mark Barnard will retire at the end of the season, closing a tenure marked by frequent roster turnover, player allegations of emotional abuse and the school's long-running lawsuit against The Associated Press to withhold records about the athletic department's response to complaints.
Barnard is 70-131 over nearly seven years as head coach, including 7-19 in the 2022 season, which ends Nov. 25. He took the Beavers to the NCAA Tournament in 2017, where they lost in the first round.
Starting in July 2020, the AP ran stories documenting more than a dozen players who had either quit or transferred from Barnard's program since he took over in 2016. Three team members said they had contemplated taking their lives during that span.
One story included allegations from players who said the coach had pitted players against each other in team meetings, threatened to revoke scholarships for struggling players and pushed team members past health warnings in practice as punishment. A follow-up story told of a player whose scholarship was shopped around not long after she thought about taking her life.
“The sooner you move on, the better,” Barnard told that player, Kyla Waters, in a conversation she recorded and provided to the AP. Waiters said when she met with the coach, her arms and wrists were scarred from a cutting habit she said she’d developed due to the stress.
Oregon State has disputed the AP reporting, saying scholarship commitments from the volleyball program have been honored and that the characterizations of pushing players past their physical limits are untrue.
Asked this week for comment about the allegations, the school referred to a short release on its website announcing Barnard's retirement.
“All of us at Oregon State thank Mark Barnard for his long-time commitment to our athletic department, the volleyball program and the student-athletes he coached while in Corvallis,” athletic director Scott Barnes said in the release.
The AP has sought documents relating to investigations into Barnard's program, and initially received a favorable opinion from the local district attorney, who serves as the first arbiter of such requests in Oregon.
But the university did not comply with that decision, instead choosing to take the case to state district court, where a series of legal motions have kept the documents from public disclosure for more than two years since the original request.
Regarding the lawsuit, Oregon State spokesman Steve Clark said that the AP's “demands for OSU to release information about an investigation and its complainants and witnesses, would have a chilling effect and potentially stymie people with concerns from ever reporting allegations of wrongdoing.”
The AP has argued that release of the athletic department’s records “regarding complaints about or investigations into Mark Barnard’s conduct as volleyball coach” are in the public interest. It has not sought names of the players involved.
The Oregon State release about Barnard's retirement didn't mention of the investigations into the program during his tenure.
“We are very grateful that we were able to raise our family in such a wonderful town and will always consider this our home,” Barnard said in the release. "I am excited to spend more time in our real estate business and travel.”
In a Facebook post, Barnes' wife, Louise, congratulated her husband on his career and said “I love that so many athletes & coaches have become part of our family."