ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. — A former women’s softball coach at a Christian college in New York has pleaded guilty to seven counts of forcibly touching his former athletes.
Court documents from lawsuits filed against Kurt Ludwigsen claim that he engaged in inappropriate conduct that included “routinely licking his players’ ears, kissing their lips and faces, slapping their buttocks, grabbing their breasts, directing them to sit on his lap, lying on top of them, commenting about their physical attributes.”
Ludwigsen, 44, agreed to a plea on Jan. 21 and will be required to serve three years of probation and perform community service, according to the New York Daily News. He was a coach at Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance school with campuses in Rockland County and lower Manhattan that describes itself as New York’s Christian College.
The court documents also suggest that he would have sexually explicit conversations with his athletes, “inviting a pornographic actress known as Allie Haze to practice and directing students to life counseling sessions with her, directing an underage drinking outing where his players were instructed to dress in cocktail dresses and dance with male strangers and offering to assist players to attain employment in the adult entertainment industry.”
Calls placed to Ludwigsen’s lawyer were not returned Tuesday.
The lawsuits, which are also filed against Nyack College, claim that the school acted negligently in hiring and retaining Ludwigsen for as long as it did, and that the college unlawfully retaliated against the players who filed suits for reporting Ludwigsen’s behavior. The lawsuit also alleges that several other Nyack staff members witnessed or at least knew about Ludwigsen’s behavior, but did nothing to prevent it.
Calls and emails placed to Nyack officials were not returned Tuesday.
Ludwigsen, who lives in Rockland County, N.Y., and coached at Nyack’s main campus in the same county, reportedly used intimidation to exercise control over members of the softball team. According to court documents, when he first met the team, he threatened to “make [their] lives a living hell” if they did anything to displease him. He also placed tight restrictions on team members’ communication with family members and others outside the team.
According to the lawsuits, Ludwigsen “perpetuated a sexually-charged atmosphere” by regularly asking team members about their sex lives, making “top tits” the team’s slogan and encouraging at least one player to consider a career as a stripper, among other things.
On one occasion, Ludwigsen had the softball team attend a mandatory “team bonding” trip to New York City and Lyndhurst, N.J. During the trip, players were required to wear cocktail dresses and heels, as well as to drink alcohol, even though most of them were below the legal age.
Before he started coaching at Nyack in 2014, Ludwigsen had founded and was coaching a softball team for girls ages 15-18 in California, where he was the subject of a criminal investigation after accusations of sexually harassing members of his team, according to court documents. During this time, under the alias “Kurt Vogner,” he started Verified Call, a telephone service that connected pornographic actresses to their fans, the lawsuits state.
Nyack College said in a statement to the New York Daily News in October that all employees are required to go through a background check.
Ludwigsen began his career at the University of Arizona’s softball program, according to a 2014 news release from Nyack. During his time there, the women’s program won two national championships.
The lawsuits brought against Ludwigsen claim that Nyack failed to comply with Title IX by failing to prevent Ludwigsen from sexually harassing members of the softball team.
The lawsuits also claim that Nyack retaliated against Ludwigsen’s victims for speaking out by limiting their playing time and threatening removal from the team. More than one victim claimed to have been threatened with expulsion.
Todd Krouner, lawyer for the players who filed lawsuits, said that there was some frustration from his clients that Ludwigsen will not have to register as a sex offender or spend time in jail.
“In terms of the criminal resolution, it doesn’t feel like justice,” Krouner said. “There’s some frustration and, I think, on a larger scale, some concern.”
Krouner has also filed separate civil lawsuits, including claims that Nyack retaliated against players for reporting Ludwigsen’s behavior.