The Nordic skiing head coach for West Valley High School was suspended Friday after school district officials learned of allegations made against him in a domestic violence protective order petition.
In the petition, Nicholas Crawford's ex-girlfriend claimed he sexually assaulted her at his home Oct. 20, 2018 while she was incapacitated. At the time of the alleged assault, both Crawford and the woman were employed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"We were notified earlier today about a potential issue. He has been suspended pending contact with UAF to get more details regarding the situation," school district spokeswoman Yumi McCulloch said when asked for comment about Crawford's suspension Friday. "The team and parents have been notified that he will not be there (for time trials) this weekend."
UAF placed Crawford, who is still listed on the UAF website as the head Nordic ski coach, on paid administrative leave a year ago after learning of the allegations. A Title IX investigation is ongoing.
Title IX is a 1972 federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments stating “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Crawford's ex-girlfriend obtained a one-year domestic violence protective order on Nov. 21, 2018, citing concerns about her safety and the safety of UAF students and coworkers. At a Fairbanks court hearing last week, she requested that the order be renewed for another year. Crawford's attorney asked that the hearing be rescheduled and that public access to the hearing be limited. Magistrate Judge JB Brainerd agreed to the request and scheduled a closed hearing for Dec. 11.
UAF police and Fairbanks police were informed of the allegations when the woman filed her petition last year. No criminal charges have been filed against Crawford, and court records show he has no prior record except for a speeding ticket in 2011.
UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes declined to give details about personnel issues but said the university evaluates all reports of sexual misconduct and followed appropriate process in this matter.
"The first step is to look at the information we have and assess any potential safety concerns and make sure we take steps to provide a safe environment for our employees, students and the public," Grimes said, adding that administrative leave is not disciplinary and is used for a variety of reasons.
"It basically just means that it’s in the best interests of the employee or the university or both for that person to be on leave," Grimes said.
When asked for comment Friday afternoon, Crawford said he works part time at West Valley and that his suspension was due to "an unresolved Title IX investigation that they said would be over in 60 days. It’s not been completed in 60 days, and that’s why the school district is now waiting, too, because they’re waiting on UAF."
When asked if he informed the school district of the Title IX investigation, Crawford deferred the question to his attorney but said he followed the "normal school district hiring process."
"I passed the background check no problem," Crawford said.
McCulloch, the school district's new spokeswoman, said Friday the background process was unclear to her at the time.
Crawford coached the University of Alaska Fairbanks cross-country running and Nordic ski programs from 2015-16 to 2018-19. On Sept. 17, Crawford was named the head coach and skier development director for FXC, the junior training and racing program of the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks.
Crawford's status with the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks is unknown at this time. Chris Puchner, president of the club, had no comment when contacted by the Daily News-Miner on Friday.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify a point made by the school district spokeswoman about whether a background check had been conducted on the ski coach.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMcrime. Sports Editor Danny Martin contributed to this report.