Teri McKeever is Godmother to the Child of High-Ranking Cal Athletics Official

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.

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Jensen
6 months ago

McKeever and O’Reilly BOTH need to be unceremoniously booted out, along with any other accomplices to this coverup, including the AD Knowlton.

Christopher DeBari
6 months ago

If she doesnt get removed, just remember that UVA is the best program in the country, ladies. Todd DeSorbo doesnt attack his athletes.

CADWALLADER GANG
Reply to  Christopher DeBari
6 months ago

now’s not the time

OOF
6 months ago

These swimmers complain because they don’t work hard and complain to their parents that they aren’t too priority.

Coach
Reply to  OOF
6 months ago

Living up to your username.

Snarky
Reply to  Coach
6 months ago

Should be Doof

chlorinemami
Reply to  OOF
6 months ago

sick of the “kids these days are too soft and don’t want to work” comments. maybe kids these days have developed greater emotional intelligence and don’t want to be subjected to abuse? there’s a huge difference between being a tough coach and laughing at suicidal athletes, verbally abusing them, and claiming they’re lying about medical conditions. both my club coach in HS and college coach pushed us hard in practice and yelled at us, but never insulted us. you can be tough without being cruel.

Laurel Marshall
Reply to  chlorinemami
3 months ago

Both SJSU and UC Berkeley have had similar problems recently regarding ‘coaching’ in their Women’s Athletic Departments.”Winning” at any cost seems to be one of the major goals at both UC California Berkely and also at San Jose State University. Have cruel and abusive bullying and shaming techniques “worked” with Men’s Athletics at these schools of higher learning in the past? Is that why these schools are OK with coninuing on with these ways of “encouraging” their young athletes to ‘achieve more’ and /or attempt greater ‘successes’? Is “winning in sports at any cost” what these schools of Higher Learning are attempting to achieve with regard to Women’s/Girl’s Sports in general; in a sort of parity’ with Mens/Boy’s Sports? At… Read more »

Luis Vargas
Reply to  OOF
6 months ago

This seems a little more than that. If a coach lets a kid on a team the coach needs to find a way to work with the swimmer. They are all different individuals. What works for one does not work for the other. Finding that is what makes a great coach. In college, you make one-year commitments. If it does not work out then don’t let them on the team the next year but until then a coach needs to coach. This seems to me like a result of coaching laziness and sitting on a pedestal.

Tiny hands
6 months ago

One of the worst parts about all of this is that even if McKeever and Simon-O’Neill are canned, they will likely feel few effects from this. Sure, they might not be able to continue working with athletes, at least not in their current capacities, but both are likely very wealthy and therefore will do just fine in the future, whatever they choose to do.

It sure would be nice if they faced serious financial penalties for causing real harm to real people. Not to mention the utter abuse of power on McKeever’s part and the willful ignorance o Simon-O’Neill.

Make them pay!

TWU
Reply to  Tiny hands
6 months ago

Ambition is probably a huge part of their existence, at least for the coach. I gather that she will never be coaching Team USA at any international meet again, and that’s got to be painful. Whether that alone is a just punishment is a different question, the answer to which is probably a “no.”

Taa
Reply to  Tiny hands
6 months ago

I’m sure they will face legal action which will hurt their pocketbook.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  Tiny hands
6 months ago

If you don’t think that’s the point of the OC Register article — to set up a lawsuit against McKeever, Cal, Simon-O’Neill, and even USA Swimming—you are sadly mistaken. Don’t be surprised if you hear the name Bob Allard entering the picture. He’s been know to work with the OC register to set the stage for these things. Just watch.

Anonymous
Reply to  Tiny hands
6 months ago

Trust me…Teri’s reputation has been ruined and that’s more important to her than any amount of money.

curious
6 months ago
SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

I read the story in the OC register. It’s pretty thorough, with lots of solid sources on one side of the investigation (almost 20 swimmers?). However, in the interest of fair journalism they needed to include the point of view of swimmers who didn’t have a problem with McKeever, her program and thought she was a good coach. I don’t buy that there are none. Even someone whose point of view was, “Yes, Teri could be harsh at times, but overall she was a great coach and ran a great program.” Any good journalist knows there are two side of the story, and this is a distorted view. If I were the editor, I never would have let this go… Read more »

Swimfan1000
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

Honest question – if the article interviewed former swimmers who said, “yeah. she was a great coach. I never saw any of this.” What would that change? The answer is, it wouldn’t change anything. B/c the allegations would remain. And just b/c someone else didn’t experience it doesn’t impact those allegations at all — it doesn’t make the allegations less likely nor does it make the allegations less serious. A murderer doesn’t get off b/c he doesn’t murder everyone he interacts with.

You can’t both sides your way out of this. And because of that, there is no journalistic obligation to get the other side . Doing so only diminishes what the victims have gone through and suggests that… Read more »

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  Swimfan1000
6 months ago

They absolutely have a journalistic obligation to present another point of view. A murderer doesn’t get off because he doesn’t murder everyone he comes in contact with. But a murderer is indeed entitled to due process and a fair trial. It may be a cut and dry case, but they do get to present their case.

boyohboy
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

It is not a court of law. Both the school and Teri declined to comment and forfeited their right to share a point of view.

Meow
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

The story isn’t “Is Teri McKeever a good coach” it’s about the abuse. Swimmers who weren’t abused don’t cancel out the ones who were.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  Meow
6 months ago

Definitely not about whether she’s a good coach, but about abuse. Or alleged abuse. Did it in fact happen exactly as portrayed in this article, or are there nuances?

DMSWIM
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

Do we do this with sexual assault allegations? Is it necessary for journalists to find five women a man accused of sexual assault didn’t assault to have a balanced story? McKeever being a good, nurturing coach to some doesn’t negate what she did to the 19 swimmers in the article.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  DMSWIM
6 months ago

Yes, this is exactly how we deal with sexual abuse cases, especially in court. You can’t just level allegations and have them accepted at face value. The accused has a right to defend themselves. Call witnesses. Due process. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Again, maybe there is no objective defense, but two sides of the story need to be presented. If they want to put McKeever on leave until they get to the bottom of the truth, then that’s fair. But you can’t take a news article that only presents one side at face value.

D3Dad
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

The lack of support from swimmers who did succeed in the program is, as Sherlock Holmes would say, “the dog that didn’t bark.“ If she was truly a great coach and the allegations were without merit I would suspect a flood of support from former swimmers, the men’s coaches, and her former assistants in response to the article. Instead we have crickets. I cannot believe Cal has not announced that she is taking a leave of absence while they investigate the allegations. Looks for all the world that Coach T jumped the shark years ago and that this moment is viewed as inevitable by those closest to the program.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  D3Dad
6 months ago

Maybe that’s what will happen. Will the OC Register print it if it does?

D3Dad
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

Obvious explanation is that there are no swimmers willing to go on the record in support of Teri. If there were, you can bet Cal would have arranged for them to speak to the reporters and the editors would have included them in the articles.

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  D3Dad
6 months ago

Then that needs to be stated in the story. You can find many an equivalent of “no one was willing to speak on record,” or “couldn’t be reached for comment.”

Snarky
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
6 months ago

Apparently most of the swimmers who swam for Rick Curl didn’t get molested. Does that make an article about Kelly Davies being a victim one sided? Get real.

Coach Macgyver
6 months ago

A couple things that stick out to me:

  1. Where is the 2-deep leadership? Conversations about depression and suicide should take with another coach, not just one, present, and if these athletes receive the feedback they say they received…wow. That’s no way to coach.
  2. There is little to no training for coaches, required by USA swimming, in regards to dealing with someone who is suicidal. As a coach, I like think I can talk swimmers through heavy issues that would bring them to this state of mind. However, I know there are experts in this field and know where to go if and when a swimmer tells me they are suicidal. There are highly trained professionals and experts that know
… Read more »

Imagine
Reply to  Coach Macgyver
6 months ago

USA Swimming should not have to provide training to coaches on being a decent human being.

Please coaches have enough cumbersome training put in place by our governing body.

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  Imagine
6 months ago

The current education requirements are basic. Nothing difficult about it. If adding an additional 3-5 min on how to cover this area is asking too much, then coaching probably isn’t for you.

Diplo
Reply to  Coach Macgyver
6 months ago

No, the no gray area is that coaches are not mental health clinicians. The ONLY appropriate support that mentally ill athletes should be given by coaches is to refer them to therapists and existing support staff and let them do what they’re actually trained to do.

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  Diplo
6 months ago

We are all mentally I’ll to some extent. We all have issues and coaches are absolutely crucial.. vital in supporting athletes when issues arise. The coaches primary role is to serve their athletes.

I’m talking suicidal. There is not gray area there. There is a process and the coach needs to support that process.

Taa
6 months ago

Is it really considered taboo to be friends with a coworker? In hindsight it’s not a good look but in real time I doubt anyone gave much of a second thought to this.

Snarky
Reply to  Taa
6 months ago

Not a problem unless your boss is covering up your bad deeds.

TWU
Reply to  Taa
6 months ago

I think people in such high-level positions know, or ought to know, better and not just in hindsight. It’s not your garden-variety office friendship; it’s people high up in the power structure and for whom the first question should be, “Would this look good in hindsight?”

boyohboy
Reply to  Taa
6 months ago

you would recuse yourself from discussing abuse allegations due to a lack of impartiality, surely.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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