“I knew that I had to be somewhere where I could be myself. It’s freeing,” said Wyatt Warnick, Sacred Heart University’s newly hired assistant track coach of six weeks, who came out as gay on social media just one week after working at Sacred Heart.
“Not only has it been my first week coaching at a Division I program, but it’s also the first time I feel as though I can live freely and authentically as a gay man,” Warnick wrote on Oct. 7.
As an undergraduate, Warnick competed as a javelin thrower for Brigham Young University (BYU), a private Mormon college in Provo, Utah.
Warnick had an athletic scholarship for the track and field team at BYU. According to the BYU website, the men’s track and field team claimed a share of the national title at the 1970 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships by scoring 35 points. BYU’s Ralph Mann completed the 440-yard hurdles in 48.8 seconds, setting a new world record.
Despite all the opportunities that arose during his time at school, Warnick dealt with anxiety while competing for BYU.
“I was always concerned or worried something was going to happen or someone was going to turn me into the honor code office,” said Warnick. “I didn’t go to BYU expecting to break the honor code.”
Under the honor code, closely following the views of the Mormon faith, marriage is believed to be between a man and a woman.
“You can’t be gay and Mormon,” said Warnick.
This heavily affected Warnick’s life at BYU.
“My grades took a toll from it, my mental health took a toll from it,” said Warnick.
Although Warnick loved his time there, he had to hide a big part of himself.
“It was a great journey, but I was definitely suffocating a bit living a double life,” said Warnick.
He was about to graduate when he felt he could no longer live his life in secret.
“I knew I couldn’t not date men so at that point I had to do it in secret and hide,” said Warnick. “I was trying to get a degree, trying to figure out what I want to do in life, but at the same time, I was trying to balance this secret life with my athletic life.”
“I’ve been out to close friends and family for years,” he said, “but I’ve never come out publicly and I haven’t really been in a position where I was able to with jobs or where I was going to school.”
After his post, Warnick received an email from President John Petillo.
“I got an email from the President of the university saying I loved reading your message and congratulations,” said Warnick.
Although Warnick said he is no longer practicing the Mormon faith, he still has faith in God.
“I have a partner in Washington, D.C., and I never could have done that in the church,” he said.
Warnick said his relationship has brought him happiness that he could have never imagined before.
“I love how I was raised. My family’s all very much in the religion and I see how it makes them happy and that’s great, but there’s just not really a place for me in it,” he said.
Since joining the Sacred Heart community, Warnick has been surrounded by positivity.
“Coach Morrison, the head coach, he’s amazing. He even came with me on the second or third day to the Coming Out Day celebration,” said Warnick.
The celebration took place on campus back in October.
“It’s a Christ-like environment. I’m still a believer in Christ and I think He taught first and foremost to love everybody. Sacred Heart really embodies that,” said Warnick.
Warnick said he wishes he had a role model he could have looked up to during his journey toward acceptance.
“Visibility is important,” Warnick said. “That’s really why I came out in the first place. It was a hard decision to make, but it makes it easier for other people.”
“I might be the first gay person they know,” he said. “It changes minds, and it softens hearts.”