Former Illinois women’s basketball players file lawsuit against athletic director, head coach and former assistant

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A couple months ago some former members of the Illinois women’s basketball program filed a complaint with the athletic department regarding the way in which they’d been treated by head coach Matt Bollant and former associate head coach Mike Divilbiss, alleging verbal and emotional abuse and making racist remarks to the team.

Three players (Jacqui Grant, Taylor Gleason and Taylor Tuck) sent a letter to the Chicago Tribune regarding the situation, with a fourth (Amarah Coleman) reaching out to the campus newspaper to provide details of the abuse. At the time athletic director Mike Thomas vowed to address these issues, but apparently he hasn’t done so to the satisfaction of the former players (three having transferred and Tuck having graduated) and their families.

Wednesday it was reported by the Chicago Tribune that seven former players – the four named above and Alexis Smith, Nia Oden and Sarah Livingston – have filed a $10 million federal lawsuit in which they allege that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was violated.

The allegations include:

  • Coaches holding segregated practices and travel accommodations.
  • Coaches calling black Illini players and opponents derogatory names such as “West Side ghetto,” and describing them as “undisciplined” and “unintelligent.”
  • Coaches using more severe discipline for black players than white players
  • Coaches calling black players “crabs,” describing them as dragging each other down much like crabs trying to crawl out of a bucket.

Both coaches are named as defendants, as is Thomas, with the plaintiffs alleging that the athletic director did not properly address these issues. Per the Chicago Tribune, an outside firm was hired to look into the allegations levied by one of the players named in the lawsuit.