Details of abuse accusations against Illinois women’s coach are disturbing

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In the midst of a growing bullying scandal in the University of Illinois’ athletic department, the letters sent by the parents of three former women’s basketball players have been made public.

The Champaign News-Gazette published letters from the parents of Taylor Gleason, Taylor Tuck and Jacqui Grant, all three of whom are no longer with the program. Gleason transferred to Oakland, Grant transferred to DePaul and Tuck has since graduated.

The complaints are long, detailed and, at times, disturbing. They detail a culture of abuse that was cultivated by head coach Matt Bollant and his associate head coach Mike Divilbiss. Divilbiss has already been relieved of his duties, while Bollant has yet to face punishment for his actions. Illinois AD Mike Thomas told CBSSports.com on Tuesday night that neither side should rush to judgement, and that after the school initially found no Title IX violations during an internal investigation into the accusations, the law firm that was retained to investigate similar allegations on the football team will be looking into the accusations made by the women’s basketball players.

Here are the worst portions of the accusations.

From Grant’s parents, written in a letter on April 18th:

Jacqui 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; away from the harmful mentality. With her mono episode, at the coach’s direction, the testing was purposely delayed for weeks at the U of I to assure that she would continue to play in Big Ten games. It was later determined at Northwestern University Medical Center in Chicago that she was actually playing with an enlarged spleen.

From Gleason’s parents, in the letter they sent on April 20th. These are the most detailed accusations in any of the letters:

We dropped Taylor off a happy, healthy, 143 pound athlete that was excited to be a part of something special. What we got was a depressed, overweight, under confident, abused, bullied young shell of our daughter. Phone conversations started out great, slowly declining to where we grew very concerned. We went to visit Taylor six weeks after we dropped her off and she was 30 pounds overweight and covered with acne. She would not tell us what was going on. We were shocked and greatly disturbed by our daughter’s appearance only after 6 weeks. We begged her to tell us what was going on because what we saw was not our daughter. She would not tell us. We would sob with her. As the season progressed she became more and more depressed and unresponsive to us which led us to believe something had happened to her on campus. We thought she was physically assaulted or something of that nature. What we did find out later was that after we threatened to bring her home if she did not speak up was that in fact she had in fact been assaulted on the campus of U of I. She was verbally assaulted by her two head coaches.

[…]

Only “Certain girls” were invited up to the offices. Taylor and many other players were never invited up to the offices. The coaches would refer to the former coaches’ players and Taylor as CRABS which meant that they were a part of a losing culture and would threaten them with D league practices. This threat meant that they would sit on the sidelines so as not to infect the new culture, their players and what they were trying to do.

There was not one team. It was grossly divided by old culture and new culture. Even though Taylor was brought in by coach Bollant she was classified with the black girls as CRABS because of their style of play. Racism comes in all kinds of forms and racism was a horrible issue with the U of I basketball program.

[…]

To make matters worse Taylor was injured in October and was mistreated by your training staff for a 2nd degree high ankle sprain. She was forced to come back early and never was completely off her ankle for any period of time. Illinois trainer, Sam, told Taylor that this was the Big Ten and you have to play through it. It can’t get any worse. She was never in a boot, which is normal for this injury. In fact she was running on it the next day. On December 30th she injured her big toe. Sam told her it was Turf Toe and once again was told to tough it out and that it could not get any worse. I made Taylor get an X-ray on December 31st. Dr. Bane confirmed it was a fracture. Sam looked at the X-rays and ignored Dr. Bane’s diagnosis and said that she can play on Turf Toe. Three days later she was forced to play at Penn State. Taylor later called me that night and said the pain is excruciating. January 8th the team doctor, Dr. McDougal manipulated her foot and told her it was broken. This was the first day we found out that it was broken. Taylor had an X-ray on the 15th and it now showed that it was an avulsion fracture and much worse. To sum it up Taylor is currently in a boot which was demanded by an orthopedic doctor at Michigan State University.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.