Catawba investigating claims against former coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Staff report
SALISBURY — Catawba College officials have launched their own investigation of allegations that a former head soccer coach molested a young boy while he worked for the school, according to a letter written by college President Brien Lewis.
Lewis also says in the letter sent to college employees on Monday that while the crime allegedly occurred over two decades ago, Catawba leaders are using the opportunity to review the school’s current policies and procedures.
Catawba spokeswoman Tonia Black-Gold said college officials would not comment on the letter, which she released to the Post.
Authorities arrested Ralph Wager at his Charlotte home on July 18 and charged him multiple sex offenses against a child between 1987 and 1989. Wager, 69, coached the men’s soccer team at Catawba from 1983 to 1989 and left the school in 1990.
He remained in the Rowan County jail under $500,000 bond on Tuesday.
Authorities said the alleged victim came forward only recently because he searched the Internet for information about Wager and found he was still working with youth as a coach at a Charlotte soccer club and at camps.
Investigators haven’t said how Wager came into contact with the boy — who they say was younger than 10 when the abuse started — but a Rowan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said Wager and the victim were involved in “sports-oriented activities” at the school.
In his letter to employees, Lewis called the behavior alleged in the case “intolerable.” He wrote that while college officials are working with criminal investigators, because some of the abuse may have occurred on campus, he and the Catawba Board of Trustees agreed “to order an independent investigation of this entire matter.”
The school’s attorneys and professional outside investigators are working with faculty, staff, former employees and detectives.
“With their help we hope to learn the relevant facts as to any allegation that may involve the College,” Lewis wrote. “While this allegation involves events over twenty years ago, we also intend to use this opportunity to review current College policies and procedures in light of today’s best practices for campus communities.”
His letter concludes with, “Catawba College is a widely respected institution with a deep commitment to its core values. They will be maintained.”
Authorities are still investigating the case. Anyone with information is asked to contact Lt. Chad Moose or Detective Sara Benfield at 704-216-8739.
Wager is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing, according to the most recent calendar.