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Report: Syracuse University athletics “did not adequately” address concerns about the women’s basketball program

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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Syracuse University (SU) women’s basketball head coach Quentin Hillsman in early August resigned from the program after 15 years, as an external law firm that SU retained conducted a review of the program and his conduct. That review found Syracuse Athletics “did not adequately” address concerns about the women’s basketball program. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — An external review found Syracuse University (SU) athletics “did not adequately identify, escalate, or address concerning behavior or complaints” about the women’s basketball program.

In addition, “a concerning number of players and managers who came forward described an unhealthy environment and culture.”

That’s according to a statement from SU Director of Athletics John Wildhack that was posted Friday on the university’s athletics website, cuse.com. The statement included the steps Syracuse has taken in response.

The probe followed the departure of numerous team members through college basketball’s transfer portal following the most recent basketball season, as well as an article by The Athletic, alleging Hillsman, 50, engaged in bullying and inappropriate conduct.

“I have been fully briefed on the findings of O’Melveny & Myers LLP, the outside counsel retained to investigate allegations against former Coach Quentin Hillsman and other staff members within the women’s basketball program,” Wildhack said. “Our University’s highest priority is ensuring our student-athletes’ success and well-being, on and off the basketball court.”  

The probe included interviews with more than 55 student-athletes, student managers, coaches, and administrators. A total of 120 were invited to participate, Syracuse said. After reviewing materials, including text and email communications, student-athlete exit interviews and surveys, and other reports, the review has concluded the two key findings, Wildhack said.

Syracuse response

In response to the findings, Syracuse says it has taken several actions to “improve accountability to our student athletes and foster a culture that prioritizes their well-being.”

For example, the university has made several changes to the women’s basketball coaching and administrative staff, including the naming of associate head coach Vonn Read as the program’s acting coach.

It has also signed a contract with Real Response, a real time anonymous reporting platform for student-athletes where they can anonymously report any issues about their experiences. Real Response provides a centralized documentation repository that will help the athletics department identify and respond to these issues quickly.

Syracuse says it is also “reforming” its processes to ensure that it promptly receives, escalates, and addresses any complaints from student-athletes, managers, or staff.

It’s also working with a culture consultant to provide training to coaches and administrators on strategies for promoting student-athlete wellbeing “while creating winning athletics programs.”

“The University thanks the many witnesses who confidentially came forward to share their experiences with the program. We also understand and respect the privacy of those who preferred not to participate. Because students and other interviewees shared information in confidence with the outside firm, and because the findings relate to private personnel matters, this statement is the only information the University will release about this matter,” Wildhack noted.

 

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