As Loyola women’s basketball players come forward with new allegations of physical mistreatment and mental manipulation, The PHOENIX has learned that Loyola’s Athletic Department played a part in the supposedly “independent” investigation of its beleaguered women’s basketball program and head coach Sheryl Swoopes.
Three players on Loyola’s 2015-16 roster said Athletic Director Steve Watson texted them to set up meetings related to the internal investigation. This came after they were told the Athletic Department would not be involved in the university’s ongoing examination of the program, which saw 10 of its 12 returning players leave the team or request to be released from scholarships.
The PHOENIX learned in April that many of those departures were due to alleged verbal mistreatment by Swoopes. The instances detailed later in this report mark the first allegations of physical mistreatment against Swoopes’ program.
Loyola hired Dykema, a corporate law firm with an office in Chicago, to conduct the investigation. Two litigation attorneys, Terrence Burns and Daniel Noland, met with players to hear their concerns about the women’s basketball program. It’s unknown how many players met with Dykema’s attorneys, but one player told The PHOENIX that she informed them of the physical mistreatment allegations. Burns and Noland did not immediately return The PHOENIX’s phone calls and emails.
Bob Parkinson, the chairman of Loyola’s Board of Trustees, told The PHOENIX that the fact that Loyola has hired an outside firm to “study the situation” shows that they’re taking it seriously.
“Given that concerns have been raised from former players and the transfers of the number of students this year, clearly it’s something we take very seriously,” said Parkinson in his first public comments on the investigation. “We want to evaluate the situation not only as comprehensively as possible but as objectively as possible.”
Although the extent of Watson’s involvement in the investigation is unclear, one player told The PHOENIX that no members of the Athletic Department were present during her meeting with Burns and Noland.
But some players said they believed the texts from Watson to schedule interviews were inappropriate given that the investigation was supposed to come entirely from outside the Athletic Department.
“How are we supposed to feel? Like, are you guys even taking this serious? Because you told us one thing but another thing is happening,” said a player on the 2015-16 roster who asked to remain anonymous. “No one has reached out to us from the university. No one has seen how we’re doing. Ten players quit; that is not normal. For people to not raise an eyebrow and try to reach out to players and see how they’re doing, it’s a little… interesting to me.”
In a statement sent to The PHOENIX in April, Deputy Director of Athletics Jermaine Truax described the investigation — which a source has indicated could be completed this weekend — as an “independent and comprehensive University investigation into the women’s basketball program.”
A number of players said no one contacted them for meetings until Loyola’s final exam week, which was about two weeks after Loyola announced the investigation on April 15. Many players said they already left campus for the semester or were busy studying for their final exams.
Athletic Department spokesperson Leo Krause said he had no knowledge of Watson’s texts and that the investigation remains completely independent from the Athletic Department.
Watson declined to comment on his alleged involvement in the investigation. University Communication Manager Kristin Trehearne Lane did not return multiple phone calls and emails.
The investigation — launched after The PHOENIX reported the players’ original allegations on April 11 — was meant to look into Swoopes’ alleged mistreatment of players in the program.
Those allegations detailed Swoopes’ micromanagement of players’ lives outside of basketball, the humiliation of players’ running or shooting styles, comments on physical appearance and the pitting of players against one another.
But new allegations tell an updated story — one not only of a lack of respect for members of Loyola’s women’s basketball program, but also one of alleged physical mistreatment and a generally uncomfortable environment.
In some cases, Swoopes wasn’t directly involved, sources said. But players in the program said her indifference toward the incidents fostered an unusual atmosphere around the team.
The known alleged incidents date back to 2014, Swoopes’ second season at Loyola.
In the 2014-15 season, Swoopes threw a cup of water at a player after becoming upset, according to multiple sources who witnessed the incident and requested anonymity. That player, who transferred to a new school after the 2014-15 season, confirmed the incident but declined to comment.
The next season, assistant coach Mahogany Green forcefully threw a basketball at sophomore guard Tashawnya Edwards after she made a mistake in a team drill, according to four players who were at the practice. Edwards, who is one of the 10 departing players, confirmed the incident but declined to comment.
Green, who left Loyola’s program on May 25 to be an assistant coach for Colgate University’s women’s basketball team, denied the allegations.
“[I] don’t remember that happening,” said Green. “I don’t abuse players … [I’ve] been coaching 15 years. I do my job, and I do my job well. That’s not in my character.”
Green said she was not dismissed from Loyola’s program. She said she decided to move on from the university on her own accord, for what she called a great opportunity at Colgate for her and her career. Green said she has no comment on Swoopes or the investigation of Loyola’s women’s basketball team.
Green’s departure makes her at least the sixth assistant coach to leave Loyola in Swoopes’ three years as the head coach. Only assistant coach Jeanine Wasielewski has lasted all three seasons under Swoopes.
But these occurrences only make up a part of what players described as a larger scope of mistreatment and disrespect.
During Swoopes’ time at Loyola, coaches have taken textbooks and laptops away from players on road trips, telling them to focus on basketball rather than academics, according to four former Loyola players.
“There were instances where players on the road needed to do homework, and [Swoopes would] take laptops like, ‘We’re here to play basketball — that’s what we’re here to do,’” said a player on the 2015-16 team who requested to remain anonymous. “It’s just like, aren’t we ‘student-athletes?’ Doesn’t the student come first?”
On various occasions, some members of the coaching staff, including Swoopes, would drink at bars after hours on road trips, according to multiple players. Those players said although the drinking never got out of hand, the coaches’ inconsistent rules frustrated the team.
“It was very unprofessional,” said the same anonymous player. “We lose respect for you when you won’t allow us to do our homework on the computer … but you can sit at the bar and drink, and that’s OK.”
When Swoopes and her coaching staff would become upset with the team, they would call late-night meetings at around midnight, according to multiple players. One player told The PHOENIX she was visiting her parents in her hometown when the coaches called for a meeting. She said she was forced to drive more than an hour back to Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus late at night to attend the meeting.
Since the players’ departures, Swoopes and Wasielewski have taken the time to unfollow and block a number of 2015-16 players and their parents on Twitter after the players decided their Loyola careers were over.
A phone call to Swoopes has not been returned.