The University of Illinois announced Monday that its outside investigation into the Illini women’s basketball program found the allegations of racism to be unsupported.
The investigation, conducted by the law firm Pugh, Jones & Johnson, included a review of 18,000 documents, 33 interviews, statements from eight former players and review of game and practice video footage, according to the university.
“We find any allegations troubling, because they don’t reflect our values,” Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a statement. “Student-athletes are part of our Illinois family, and we want to ensure that their experiences are fulfilling, and that they are able to work toward an Illinois degree and prepare for lives of leadership and impact.
“Going forward, we must ensure that our coaches and staff members have a clearer understanding of our core values and expectations, and that our student-athletes never ever feel they have nowhere to go when they have concerns,” she said.
The university initiated the investigation after former players and their parents made claims of segregated practices and roadtrips. Some of those families have also filed a lawsuit against the university.
Here’s more from the university statement:
Investigators reported that allegations of players being segregated by race during practice and at hotels during road trips were unfounded. The review also found that extra practice sessions included both African-Americans and Caucasians and were not punitive, but were held to ensure that student-athletes who played less than 20 minutes in the previous game remained in shape and ready to play. Records of hotel room assignments show that the majority of room assignments featured mixed-race pairings. Head Coach Matt Bollant and former Associate Head Coach Mike Divilbiss acknowledged that the tone of their coaching at times was too negative, the report states. However, the evidence shows their actions did not constitute racial discrimination or harassment. The report stated that Divilbiss treated players harshly in a number of incidents and more harshly overall than other coaches, but found no evidence that he criticized players differently or more frequently because of their race. The external investigation confirmed the findings of an initial review conducted by the University. U. of I. Athletic Director Mike Thomas said he is committed to correcting the problems pointed out in the external report and ensuring that the university protects its student-athletes. He said the athletic department had been responsive to player complaints before the allegations surfaced and, as part of the department’s continuous efforts to improve the student-athlete experience, will implement changes based on the investigative report’s recommendations.
“Our number one priority is the well-being and health of our students,” Thomas said in a statement. “We are implementing positive changes across our athletic department that we believe will become part of the best practices for other schools in the country in the coming years.”
Those changes, Thomas said, will include: implementing a formal coaches’ code of conduct, improving processes for student-athletes to report concerns and complaints, and creating a policy establishing clearer lines for appropriate interaction between coaches and parents or others who act on behalf of student-athletes.