UNCW confirms Paul Cairney was discontinued as women's soccer coach

UNCW confirms Paul Cairney was discontinued as women's soccer coach
Distirct Attorney Ben David announced Friday no criminal charges will be filed against former UNCW women's soccer coach Paul Cairney, who was accused of sexual misconduct. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A spokesperson with the University of North Carolina Wilmington confirmed Thursday that longtime women's soccer coach Paul Cairney was discontinued from the university on Wednesday. (An earlier version of this story indicated Cairney was fired, but that is not the case.)

"Mr. Cairney's at-will appointment was discontinued as of yesterday."--- UNCW Spokesperson

Cairney had been on paid administrative leave since December 2017 after the university learned of an allegation on social media of a 1997 incident involving a female soccer camp attendee. The alleged victim also filed a Title IX complaint, which prompted the university's inquiry into the matter.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office investigated the 1997 incident in 2007 but closed the case after the alleged victim declined to provide charges.

After the allegation began circulating on social media last year, the sheriff's office contacted the alleged victim to potentially re-open the investigation, but she declined.

WECT reached out to the alleged victim, who issued the following statement regarding Cairney's firing:

"My first initial reaction was one of sadness for his family as they are innocent in this. But what he did to me shaped me for the rest of my life and all things have been about me fighting to take my life back. Speaking up is so important, no matter when you need to use your voice."

During the course of its Title IX inquiry, UNCW rediscovered a second claim of sexual misconduct against Cairney, which was initially made via email in May 2004 by a woman to a member of the university's athletic department.

University administration closed its investigation into the matter a week later without taking any personnel action against Cairney.

In response to the allegations, District Attorney Ben David, along with UNCW Police Chief David Donaldson and New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon, requested the State Bureau of Investigation conduct an outside review of the claims.

A spokesperson with the SBI confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the agency is in talks with the District Attorney's Office about the case.

"We just received the report and one of my senior prosecutors is reviewing it now," David said Wednesday. "We should be able to know within the next 10 days if there will be any charges."

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