Soccer group puts ex-coach on indefinite suspension after sex abuse charges

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A former Catawba College soccer coach charged with molesting a child in the 1980s has been suspended from a statewide soccer association.
Ralph Wager, 69, is charged with three counts of first-degree sex offense with a child, three counts of crimes against nature and three of indecent liberties with a child, all felonies.
N.C. Youth Soccer Association President Keith Price said Thursday that Wager has been suspended indefinitely.
The state association is a member of the United States Youth Soccer Association, an affiliate of the U.S. Soccer Federation, which is the governing body of all soccer in the United States.
Wager is a part of the N.C. Youth Soccer Association through his work as a coach with Steele Creek Soccer Club in Charlotte.
Wager was arrested Tuesday night and booked into the Rowan County jail early Wednesday. His name had appeared at the top of the coaching staff page on Steele Creek’s website Wednesday morning but was removed before noon.
According to the N.C. Youth Soccer Association’s rules and bylaws manual, any person subject to a pending criminal complaint is suspended from the organization “until such time as the criminal proceedings are completed.” If the accused is found guilty, he could be kicked out of the association.
“He has been suspended indefinitely and will not be able to participate with any organization in any manner that is a member of N.C. Youth Soccer Association,” Price said.
The association established a risk management policy in 2005 that includes requiring its members to undergo background checks, and Price said Wager had a background check.
“The only thing found, I believe, was traffic tickets. Nothing shows up there. He cleared risk management,” Price said.
According to an arrest warrant, a man told authorities Wager molested him between July and December 1987, when the victim was 9 years old, and between January and July 1989 when he was 11 years old.
Capt. John Sifford with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said Wager and his accuser were both associated “sports-oriented activities” at Catawba College when the crimes are alleged to have occurred. Wager was the head soccer coach at Catawba from 1983 through the 1989 season and conducted summer soccer camps there.
The man came forward in May after performing an Internet search and finding that Wager still worked with children, Sifford said. News reports about the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State may have played a role in that, he said.
Wager moved to Charlotte after resigning in 1990 from Catawba, where he was inducted into the college’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 for his accomplishments with the soccer program.
Wager was arrested at his Charlotte home late Tuesday. He remained in the Rowan County jail Thursday under a $500,000 bond. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.
According to court records, he is represented by the Whitley & Jordan law firm in Salisbury.
The State Bureau of Investigation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department also took part in the investigation. Authorities ask anyone with information about the investigation to contact Rowan Sheriff’s Lt. Chad Moose or Detective Sara Benfield at 704-216-8739.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.