One week after she was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Loyola’s women’s basketball head coach Sheryl Swoopes may have a problem on her hands.
For the second consecutive year, members of the team have decided their time as Ramblers is up. A number of players on the 2015-16 roster plan to quit or have already put in requests to be released from their scholarships, according to Loyola’s Athletic Department.
Among those players are redshirt junior standouts Taylor Johnson and Taylor Manuel, who received NCAA and Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) honors, respectively, during the season.
The PHOENIX has learned through sources close to Loyola’s women’s basketball team that some of the student-athletes have decided to leave due to displeasure with Swoopes’ treatment toward individual players.
Loyola’s Athletic Department sent The PHOENIX a statement regarding the departure of players.
“Roster turnover is something that affects every NCAA school and is becoming more and more prevalent,” wrote Deputy Director of Athletics Jermaine Truax. “We are fully committed to helping our student-athletes find the right situation for them. We will have the best interest of the student-athlete in mind when it comes to transfer decisions.”
The Athletic Department declined to meet with The PHOENIX to discuss further details of the situation. Swoopes was also unavailable for comment.
Although roster turnover is expected from year to year with any NCAA Division I team, a mass exodus in consecutive years has left question marks around the women’s basketball program.
After the 2014-15 season, five members of Loyola’s women’s basketball team left the program to play for other teams.
At least one of Swoopes’ current players has met with Loyola Athletic Director Steve Watson regarding her future with the program, according to multiple sources. In that meeting, the player detailed her concerns with Swoopes’ demeanor.
Swoopes has a tendency to “cross the line” when dealing with members of the program in regards to their performances and personal lives, according to a source close to the team who chose to remain anonymous.
“She really pushes them to the point of misery and to the point where they shut down,” said the source. “A lot of them feel very trapped about who they can talk to in the Athletic Department because regardless of who they choose, it usually gets back to Sheryl … And I think when it gets to that point … there is no outlet.”
The source also said Swoopes manages the players’ social lives outside of basketball. Last season, first-year player Courtney Williams decided not to return to Loyola due to off-court problems with Swoopes.
“It was a lot of stuff off the court that [Swoopes] made difficult, but as far as her coaching style, it wasn’t really a factor,” Williams told The PHOENIX last April. “It was a lot of stuff that was unrelated to basketball.”
Both Williams and Swoopes declined to go into further detail about that specific situation last April.
Swoopes was in Houston for personal reasons until April 11. Her absence delayed the players’ requests to be released from their scholarships, according to Loyola’s Athletic Department. It’s unknown whether meetings have been scheduled with the players to discuss the possibility of releasing them from their scholarships.
Swoopes is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time WNBA champion. She was also named WNBA MVP three times, the most in the league’s history. Swoopes finished her third season heading the women’s basketball program with a quarterfinal loss in the MVC tournament in early March.