USA Today // Brett Carlson

Review: Allegations against WBB 'unsupported'

Independent investigation into allegations of racism against Matt Bollant's Illini women's basketball program found unsupported

The University of Illinois announced an independent investigation, conducted by Chicago law firm Pugh, Jones & Johnson, concluded that allegations of racism within the Illinois women's basketball program are "unsupported."

According to the university, the review parsed more than 18,000 documents, 33 interviews, statements of eight former players -- who have filed a federal lawsuit against the university -- and review of game and practice video footage. The university released the full 226-page report on Monday.

The review was initiated after eight former Illini women's basketball players, including four players recruited by head coach Matt Bollant and departed assistant coach Mike Divilbiss, made allegations of racism and verbal abuse by the staff, especially Divilbiss.

In a university release, Bollant and Divilbiss “acknowledged that the tone of their coaching at times was too negative,” but that the review found no evidence that constituted racial discrimination or harassment.  The report said that Divilbiss -- who agreed to part ways with the program earlier this summer -- “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 report "recommends steps for clarifying expectations regarding coaches' conduct, better defining the coach-parent relationship and enhancing resources for student-athletes to report concerns or complaints about their experience at Illinois."

Statement by Timothy Killeen, President, University of Illinois:

“I support the campus’s effort to fully investigate this matter in a timely and thorough manner, and I appreciate the progress made through the Pugh, Jones & Johnson investigative efforts. I’m concerned with findings in the report indicating that harsh coaching techniques have been used on occasion. The report contains a solid set of recommendations that I fully support and expect will be implemented immediately. We are still awaiting a second report from the Franczek Radelet firm, and we hope to gain more information, if possible, from the student-athletes themselves.”



Statement by Phyllis M. Wise, Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

“The independent investigation by Pugh, Jones & Johnson was both extensive and thorough in its review of the allegations against the women’s basketball program, although student-athletes involved in litigation with us declined to be directly interviewed. But, based on the information we had available, the allegations of racism and abusive behavior were not supported. But the report does recommend several actions to clarify expectations for our coaching staff and to enhance the resources for out student-athletes to report concerns of any kind. We will begin implementing those immediately. Our student-athletes become part of the Illinois family and we have the responsibility to ensure their experience here is fulfilling and prepare them for their lives and careers after college.”



Mike Thomas, Director of Athletics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

“Our top priority must always be the welfare of our student-athletes. And when allegations like these arise, we will always take them very seriously and investigate them quickly, impartially and thoroughly. This review certainly reinforces our understanding that we can never have too many different avenues available to our students for them to report concerns or issues. We are already working to implement the recommendations made by Pugh, Jones and Johnson to create more and better ways to connect our athletes with the support we promise them when they make the choice to join an Illinois athletic program.” 

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