SALISBURY Former Catawba College soccer coach Ralph Wager has been indicted in connection with allegations he sexually abused a young boy more than two decades ago.
Wager, 69, has been in jail since mid-July on charges of first-degree child sex offense, taking indecent liberties with a child and crimes against nature. He was originally set to appear in court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing, but Monday’s grand jury indictment means that proceeding is no longer necessary.
Rowan County authorities have said Wager met his accuser, who is now in his 30s and lives in another state, at Catawba College when Wager was the school’s soccer coach. At the time, the youth was involved in another sports activity on the campus, they said.
According to arrest warrants, the alleged acts occurred in 1987 and 1989 when the victim was 9 and 11 years old.
Prosecutors have said that the accuser’s mom contacted college officials after learning of the alleged abuse. Catawba officials reportedly responded by restricting Wager’s access to its pool. In recent court filings, investigators say they believe some of the abuse may have occurred in a house and office Wager had on the college campus, the Salisbury Post reported this week.
Catawba officials announced shortly after Wager’s arrest that the college would conduct its own independent investigation into the case.
In a recent interview, former Catawba athletics director David Wood declined to comment extensively on Wager’s arrest or any possible involvement of the college. The allegations are “obviously as abhorrent as they are shocking,” said Wood, now dean and senior vice president at Wofford College. “I will be working to be as helpful as I can with the college and other authorities in the days ahead. I think at this juncture that’s probably all I can really say at this point.”
Robert Knott, who was Catawba’s provost in the 1980s, has said he has no memory or knowledge of any formal allegation of sexual misconduct involving Wager.
But Knott recalled that a swim club had once made an informal request that Wager not be allowed near the pool when the club met.
Knott says he doesn’t recall what triggered the request, but that it would have been enforced by the college’s athletic director.
Investigators have not said whether anyone outside of Catawba was made aware of any alleged sex crimes.
State law requires people to report suspected child abuse or neglect by a parent, guardian, custodian or caregiver, though a coach wouldn’t fall under that category.
Wager has been a fixture in the local youth soccer community for years. He most recently worked at the Steele Creek Soccer Club in Charlotte, but has been suspended indefinitely by the N.C. Youth Soccer Association.