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.