Current and former members of the Cal women’s swim team say they’re concerned about the direction of a law firm’s investigation into dozens of verbal and emotional abuse allegations against longtime head coach Teri McKeever, according to a new report from the OC Register.
The swimmers claim that attorneys have yet to ask them about the athletic department administrators who are accused of repeatedly ignoring credible complaints. One legal expert told SwimSwam that it’s not unusual for investigations like these to first focus on whether the individual in question committed wrongdoing before addressing any administrative oversight.
Among those who allegedly enabled and defended McKeever’s behavior were athletic director Jim Knowlton and Jennifer Simon-O’Neill, senior executive associate athletic director and McKeever’s close friend (social media posts from 2012 also confirmed that McKeever is godmother to the oldest child of Simon-O’Neill). A former Cal administrator told the Southern California News Group (SCNG) that top athletic department officials have been aware “for years” of McKeever’s purported pattern of verbal and emotional abuse toward athletes.
“Your number one job as an administrator is to protect the student athlete, the kids. There’s no way (athletic department officials) didn’t know if there’s that much information there, this was an avalanche,” a former university administrator said. “Everybody can’t be wrong. (Athletic department officials) were enabling Teri with their refusal to shut it down. This has to stop! This has gone on for years.”
A group of current and former Cal swimmers, their parents, and a former university administrator also raised questions about a potential conflict of interest with the law firm, Munger, Tolles and Olson, hired by the university to run the investigation.
Brad Brian, a former all-conference baseball player at Cal, holds the top position of chair at Munger, Tolles and Olson. Brian is a major donor to Cal’s athletic department, recently leading campaigns to build beach volleyball and softball facilities at the school. He’s also one of two recipients of the Robert Gordon & Ida Sproul award for the “most outstanding contribution to the university.”
“I’m a proud alum of UC Berkeley and a supporter of Cal Athletics and gender equity,” Brian said in a statement. “I had nothing to do with our firm being hired to investigate the allegations against Coach McKeever, have played no role whatsoever in that investigation, and haven’t discussed the investigation with anyone at Cal. Partner Hailyn Chen, a national leader in investigations involving allegations of abuse, is leading the investigation. I am confident that Hailyn will conduct a thorough and neutral investigation.”
With McKeever on administrative leave since May, the Cal women’s team will reportedly be coached by men’s head coach Dave Durden, merging the two programs for the time being.
“Dave Durden will be acting as the Director of Cal Swimming which allows him and his staff to work directly with both the women’s and men’s swimming and diving programs while the current coach is on leave,” Cal spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “When programs are combined, the NCAA permits an additional coach to be on staff to support both programs, and that is what we are doing.”
Over the past several months, 36 current or former Cal swimmers and divers, 17 parents, a former member of the men’s swimming and diving squad at Cal, two former coaches, a former Cal administrator, and two former Cal athletic department employees have come forward to the SCNG with stories of McKeever’s bullying.
Some of the details are disturbing, including how nine Cal women’s swimmers — six since 2018 — told SCNG that they made plans to kill themselves or obsessed about suicide due to McKeever’s treatment. One of those women expressed outrage when an investigating attorney recently questioned whether she was actually suicidal.
In a statement to SCNG, the Berkeley Faculty Association (BFA) said that recent scandals surrounding the football, women’s soccer, and swimming teams suggest the issue is systemic within Cal’s athletic department.
“The Berkeley Faculty Association is deeply alarmed by allegations of abuse towards student athletes by coaches,” James Vernon, BFA chair, wrote in a statement to SCNG. “The cluster of cases around football, women’s soccer and swimming suggests there is a systemic problem that urgently needs to be addressed by campus. It is all the more disturbing given that the Chancellor continues to subsidize the athletics program $25 million a year, leaving aside the huge debt burden of the football stadium, while there is such an urgent need for more Title IX and mental health staff on campus.”
Its called due process. It takes time to be done credibly.
Why was this story not reported on for so long? Cal swimmers knew this was what was happening at least a month ago. Did Swimswam know and sit on it? If so, why?
So the people who were too soft for Teri’s coaching are now complaining about the investigation? 🤔
Where is the empathy for the Women who are going through this? He left Maryland in the dead of night in the middle of the Season, without any visible concern for the wellbeing of the athletes he had recruited. This interview comes across as a man who has only his own personal best interests in his sights. Not a fan.
Movement, If and when it happens, consider… Ron Aitken, arguably has done more with less.
Great option for the womens team here, in great hands with Durden and Marsh! They’ll probably get really really good … 🙂
Funny that Durden complained in the interview about other teams trying to poach girls away from Cal yet he now has Marsh on his staff. Oh, the irony.
Can someone fill me in on all the Marsh hate?
Lots of overly emotional parents from Swimmac
I have no affiliation with SwimMac. His unethical actions go back to Auburn through Charlotte and certainly haven’t changed in San Diego.
unethical? what did he do?
Lol so many shots a Desorbo
oh nvm… damn he really ignored him when talking about successful combined programs
Not only that but the talk about showing off on social media and following the cal girls on the gram trying to get them to transfer to UVA
yup that too. probably the reason why he didn’t mention UVA’s recent success. sensing something
What does it take for administration or others to act with any urgency these situations deserve?
At Michigan a team member taking his life, another walking off the team after Big10’s and before NCAA’s, others seeking treatment for mental distress, many complaints to AD, and pleading from athletes for help while the coach get an extension… At least the Hockey and Water Polo athletes were taken seriously…