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LEHI — The coach of the Utah State University women's rugby team has been arrested for investigation of unlawful sexual conduct with a teen prior to her becoming coach.
Tara Earl, 29, was arrested Thursday for investigation of four counts of unlawful sexual conduct. According to police, she started a relationship with a 17-year-old girl in November of 2010. The girl turned 18 in January.
Earl, however, strongly denies all the allegations against her. She said Monday that her accuser made up the stories of sexual misconduct because the coach wouldn't have a relationship with her.
"There was a friendship and she wanted it to be a relationship, and I did not want it to be a relationship. I would not let it be a relationship. She's mad. She's not OK with these answers from me," Earl said.
There was a friendship and she wanted it to be a relationship, and I did not want it to be a relationship. I would not let it be a relationship.
–Tara Earl, former USU coach
She said it was her understanding that the case was still an open investigation and she expects police will find evidence that will clear her. Earl said information given by the victim and written in the police report on the timeline of events and what allegedly happened, are false.
Earl became coach of the Utah State University women's rugby team in September, after the alleged incidents occurred. University spokesman Tim Vitale said Earl was immediately removed from her coaching job, a volunteer position, after her arrest. As of Monday, Earl was still allowed to continue taking classes at USU.
Earl and the victim met during a rugby tournament at Rio Tinto Stadium in July of 2010. By October, the two were communicating through texting, Facebook and other social media, said Lehi Police Lt. Darren Paul. In November of 2010, Earl invited the girl to USU and paid for her trip there, he said.
According to court records, Earl invited the victim to USU for "a diversity day" and "made sure she was the group leader for her."
"Tara said that she wanted to help her because she thought that (the victim) would be playing rugby at USU," according to Earl's booking record.
Vitale said he wasn't sure what a group leader is and adamantly noted the trip had nothing to do with athletics since the rugby team is only a club sport and does not have scholarships or recruiting trips.
We don't recruit for the sport. It's not part of our university athletics program.
–Tim Vitale, USU spokesman
"We don't recruit for the sport," he said, while also noting Earl was not even a coach at that time. "It's not part of our university athletics program."
According to police records, Earl drove the victim home after the trip to USU, and it was on that occasion that the two had illegal sexual contact for the first time. The two ended up meeting at least three more times, including on New Year's Eve at Motel 6 in Lehi, Paul said.
Earl, however, said none of that ever happened.
"I don't drive. I don't have a license to drive anybody anywhere," she said.
Earl told police she broke off the relationship because of the "drama," according to police records. She said Monday that she broke off her friendship with the victim months ago.
Recently, the victim's rugby team played at Utah State against Earl's team. she said. The girl was injured during the game. Earl did not have any contact with her that day, but received a call from the alleged victim later asking why she didn't talk to her or call to ask how she was doing, Earl said.
"I said, 'You need to stop calling me. This is completely twisted in your head of what you want this to be. It was never a relationship.' It was not the answer she wanted," Earl said. "I told her, 'You need to leave me alone, you need to stop contacting me, you need to quit.' The very next day she went with her parents to police."
The incident was reported to police on Oct. 31 when the girl, who lives in Lehi, and her parents went to police. Paul did not know Monday what prompted them to report the alleged conduct.
Earl was able to post bail after being arrested. As of Monday, no official charges had been filed against her.