Cal fires long-time swimming coach Teri McKeever after a spate of harassment and abuse allegations

Teri McKeever was fired Tuesday after 29 years as a women's swimming coach at the University of California.  (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Teri McKeever was fired Tuesday after 29 years as a women’s swimming coach at the University of California. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The University of California has fired Teri McKeever, a longtime women’s swimming and diving coach, following an eight-month investigation into widespread allegations of bullying and abuse.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton announced the decision Tuesday in a letter to student-athletes. The decision came after an extensive investigation that included interviews with 147 people and reviews of 1,700 documents conducted by university attorneys, San Jose Mercury News reports.

“I am writing to inform you that today we bid farewell to Teri McKeever, a veteran women’s swimming coach,” Knowlton’s letter reads. “After carefully reviewing an extensive investigative report recently completed by an independent law firm, I believe it is in the best interest of our student-athletes, our swim program and Cal Athletics as a whole.

“The report describes numerous violations of university policies that prohibit discrimination based on race, national origin and disability. The report also describes verbally abusive behavior that violates our core values. I was disturbed by what I learned while reading I want to apologize on behalf of Cal Athletics to every student-athlete who has been a victim of this behavior in the past and I want to thank everyone who had the courage to come forward and share their story with the investigators.”

According to Mercury News, 44 current or former Cal swimmers and 23 parents belong to a group that also included former coaches and administrators who accused McKeever of routine bullying, including body shaming, personal insults, racial slurs and pressure to compete while sick or injured. goods.

The complaints date back to January 2010, when former Cal swimmer Jenna Rais wrote a letter to then-Chancellor Robert Joseph Birgeneau alleging that she had been abused by McKeever. Since then, McKeever has been allowed another 11 years to coach Cal amid an influx of allegations.

She was placed on administrative leave last May when the allegations came to light through an investigation by the Southern California News Group. The Mercury News reports that she earned more than $3 million during those years while receiving eight pay raises. Cal won national championships in 2011, 2015 and 2019 during that time.

Former Cal swimmer Danielle Carter told the Orange County Register last May that McKeever’s alleged abuse led her to contemplate suicide in 2019.

“It got to the point where I literally couldn’t take it anymore from Teri,” Carter said. “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to live anymore. That night I literally didn’t want to live anymore. It was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to die. I want to kill myself’. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to live anymore.'”

Carter said she instead texted teammates for support that night. She told the Register that McKeever ridiculed her the next day when she told her coach that she had contemplated suicide. According to the SCNG investigation, Carter was one of at least six Cal swimmers since 2018 who considered suicide due to McKeever’s alleged bullying.

According to the SCNG study, which included interviews with 19 current or former Cal swimmers, McKeever’s targeted up to three swimmers a year for near-daily harassment and mental abuse. LGBTQ swimmers were often the subject of her harassment, according to the report.

Ex-Cal swimmer Leann Toomey says McKeever’s alleged abuse drove her to attempt suicide in 2018.

“I’m thrilled she got fired because she deserved it,” said Toomey. “This isn’t just a slap on the hand or ‘oh, we’re really sorry, we’re going to talk to her and make sure it doesn’t happen again.’

“For years I had to suffer alone and think maybe there was something wrong with me, maybe Teri was right, I just wasn’t strong enough. But now I know the abuse was real.”

McKeever, through her attorney, Thomas Newkirk, issued a statement on Tuesday acknowledging her resignation and denying the allegations against her. She plans to sue the university, according to Newkirk, who says the research was a product of gender bias.

“I deny and unequivocally disprove any claims that I have abused or bullied any athlete and I deny any suggestion that I have discriminated against an athlete based on race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever’s statement read. “There were and should be consequences for breaking team rules, not showing up for scheduled appointments, misusing resources, not making honest efforts and behavior inconsistent with their individual or our team goals.

“But those consequences weren’t applied because of who someone was, only because of what they did or didn’t do that hurt the team and the culture we worked so hard for. I am terribly disappointed and saddened by the way the investigation was conducted .” process was performed. I have been an open book in my coaching methods and the administration knows how I coach and have fully approved. “

McKeever is a legend in the sport and has coached Cal to four NCAA titles in 29 seasons. She also coached the U.S. Women at the 2012 London Olympics, where six current, future or former Cal swimmers earned 13 medals. Six National Swimmers of the Year have competed for McKeever at Cal, including Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin. A total of 26 swimmers coached by McKeever won a total of 36 Olympic medals. She was a nine-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

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