Investigation funded by Illinois clears Illinois women’s coaches of racism claims

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An independent investigation into the Illinois women’s basketball program funded by the school found no evidence supporting claims of racism or discrimination, according to a statement released by the law firm that conducted the investigation.

The law firm of Pugh, Jones & Johnson reviewed more than 18,000 documents, interviewed 33 people, took statements from eight players and reviewed game and practice footage during the investigation. The report can be read in its entirety here. While it did not find that head coach Matt Bollant or former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss did anything wrong, the report did recommend taking steps to address “clarifying expectations regarding coaches’ conduct, better defining the coach-parent relationship and enhancing resources for student-athletes to report concerns or complaints about their experience”.

“My initial reaction is that I am not surprised that investigators, selected by the university and paid by the university would issue a report favorable to their client,” Terry Ekl, an attorney who represents seven former players that filed a lawsuit against the universtiy, said. “This is precisely why we did not wait until the conclusion of the university funded investigation to be completed before we filed suit.”

In the lawsuit, the former players accused Bollant and Divilbiss of both verbal and emotional abuse as well as racial discrimination, including segregating practices and travel accommodations, more severe punishments for the African-American players and referring to players of color as “crabs”, “West Side ghetto” and “unintelligent”.

The report noted that Divilbiss, who resigned in May, “treated players … more harshly than other coaches”, but determined that it was not due to their race. It also noted that both Bollant and Divilbiss acknowledged that they coached too negatively, although the report did not determine that it was along racial lines.

The report also found that extra practices were designated for players that did not play more than 20 minutes in the previous game and that room assignment while on the road often mixed races.