The OC Register earlier today ran a scathing report about head Cal women’s swimming & diving coach Teri McKeever and claims by at least 19 former swimmers of emotional and verbal abuse that included allegations that she ignored diseases and health issues, ridiculed an athlete who attempted suicide, and discriminated based on race, national origin, and sexual orientation.
As the story develops, two distinct branches will form: one will be about McKeever and the alleged abuse. The other is about the power structure within the athletics department that resulted in the school allegedly ignoring the same claims made directly to them by athletes, and now releasing a statement expressing ‘deep concern’ about those claims.
While Cal professes that they have ‘best-practice’ policies and procedures in place to deal with allegations of misconduct, more information is coming to light about a personal relationship that may have impacted those policies and procedures.
Social media posts from 2012 verify that McKeever is godmother to the oldest child of Cal Athletics second-in-command Jennifer Simon-O’Neill. Several individuals close to McKeever and the Cal program indicate that it is common knowledge in Berkeley.
Parents of swimmers told OC Register that they had made several complaints to Simon-O’Neill.
Simon-O’Neill began her career at Cal as the Director of Olympic Sports Operations from 2008 through 2013. That meant working directly with the swimming & diving programs, including photos on her personal social media accounts that show her at the 2012 Olympic Trials – where McKeever was to serve as head coach of the US Olympic women’s team. Six months after those Trials, McKeever participated in the baptism of Simon-O’Neill’s oldest child.
Simon-O’Neill eventually worked her way up the ladder at Cal and is currently the Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director, Chief of Staff, and Senior Woman Administrator for Cal athletics. She is also the sport administrator for women’s swimming & diving,
The Senior Woman Administrator is the highest-ranking female in each NCAA athletics department or conference office. According to the NCAA, “the purpose of the SWA designation is to promote meaningful representation of women in the leadership and management of college sports.”
Among the specific purposes of the NCAA creating this position in 1981 includes “diverse points of contact on the senior management team for student-athletes and staff to bring issues or concerns.”
The SWA also has duties and responsibilities relating to female staff members like McKeever.
In this case, however, McKeever and Simon-O’Neill’s close personal relationship might have influenced how the administrator responded when complaints were brought to her.