(CBS) The families of seven former Illinois women’s basketball players have expressed their outrage over the university’s internal investigation into and handling of what the families say is mistreatment and abuses by the coaching staff.
The families signed a letter to chancellor Phyllis Wise on Thursday expressing displeasure over how the university handled the allegations of abuse, which the school was first notified of back in April.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Best Rain Friday Night
The letter to Wise was short and to the point, asking for a “swift end” to the “ongoing embarrassment.”
The main portion of the letter read:
The players and player families of the University of Illinois Womens’ Basketball Team listed below do most strongly object to the manner in which the “internal investigation” of mistreatment and abuses by the coaching staff was handled and is currently being handled by your office.
We find this protocol unacceptable as well as completely disrespectful to the student athletes and their families affected by the coaches and coaching staff involved in these patterns of abuse.
The families of former players Taylor Tuck, Amarah Coleman, Taylor Gleason, Alex Smith, Nia Oden, Jacqueline Grant and Sarah Livingston signed the letter.
A separate email from a family member of one of the players to university president Timothy Killeen indicates that the families also are upset that no apology has been issued by any school official and that they’re astonished that Wise couldn’t once in six weeks return numerous calls and emails after being notified of the troubles.
Livingston left the program in summer 2014. The other six players were on the team during the 2014-’15 season.
Tuck, Oden and Smith were seniors who are now out of eligibility. Grant, a junior-to-be, has transferred to DePaul, as has Coleman, a sophomore-to-be. A junior-to-be, Gleason has transferred to Oakland University in Michigan.
The letter being signed by the families of seven players is notable. Prior reports indicated that families of three players had come forward with the claims of wrongdoing.
This news comes on the heels of the Champaign News-Gazette publishing letters from the families of Tuck, Gleason and Grant that detailed mistreatment and abuse by the women’s basketball coaching staff. Those alleged that coaches bullied players, medically neglected them and created a racial divide, among other misdoings.
The family of Grant wrote that she “was so pressured by the coaches to return to play after her bout with mono in her freshman year and her cardiac ablation procedure during her sophomore year, we literally had to go get her and bring her home to recover safely at home.”
One letter also claims that the coaches entertained the idea of holding extra, separate practices for African-American players in an attempt to get them to quit.READ MORE: Getting Hosed: A Look At The Universe Of Chicago Water, And Its Sometimes-Sordid History, This Earth Day
Illinois women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant hasn’t been disciplined or publicly commented since the allegations came to light. Assistant coach Mike Divilbiss has left the program following the allegations of mistreatment.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has emphasized he holds coaches to the highest of ethical standards and that everyone should refrain from a rush to judgment.
The allegations of abuse in the women’s basketball program comes at the same time that former three-year starting offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic has alleged mistreatment by the football coaching staff.
The university found no NCAA or university violations in its internal review, but a Chicago law firm is still looking into the claims of medical mistreatment.
Here’s the full email from Thomas Grusecki, the father of Grant, to university president Killeen. The letter is dated Thursday:
Good morning President Killeen.
Thank you again for your phone call last week. My family & I appreciate it very much. I hope your transition into office is going well for you and for your family.
I am enclosing a letter from seven University of Illinois Women’s Basketball team players and their families addressed to U of I Chancellor Phyllis Wise. I am enclosing the letter to you because Chancellor Wise apparently has found it beneath her to return any or my numerous emails and phone calls over a period of the past 6 weeks.
All of our families are extremely proud of our daughters and each other’s daughters during these trying and challenging times. They are truly the ones who stood up. They are truly the ones who are “tough enough” in the face of adults who ridiculed and belittled them for not being “tough enough”. We are most proud of our daughters.
Since 1867, the University of Illinois has been the envy of the world for integrity and academic excellence. It is a place where all students, not only student athletes, should feel safe and respected as they pursue their dreams. How then can it be, then, that in the past 6 weeks since this nightmare has come to light exposing a culture of abuse and racism in the Women’s Basketball Program that not one person of authority at the University of Illinois has come close to issuing an apology? Not even a marginal apology “that if these events did occur, we are truly sorry for the people affected”. Nothing. Not a word.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Athletic Director Michael Thomas have truly forgotten who their customers are. Their profound arrogance in the community and in the media do nothing to help the integrity & reputation of the University of Illinois let alone provide any type of reassurance to the player athletes and their families. I can only hope & suggest that you be the “new broom that sweeps clean”.
I ask that you carefully keep in mind that these young women; past, present and current students at the University of Illinois did nothing wrong. They are exemplary student athletes who excelled in their studies and excelled in their sport.
Good luck to you Timothy in the days and years ahead. I hope and pray that your legacy at the University of Illinois will be a happy and successful one.MORE NEWS: Shuttered By Pandemic Last Summer, Guthrie's Tavern In Wrigleyville Has New Owner And Will Be Reopening
Thomas D. Grusecki