Follow-up letter surfaces

Follow-up letter surfaces

CHAMPAIGN — Four more families of former Illinois women’s basketball players reached out to Illinois President Timothy Killeen and Chancellor Phyllis Wise on Thursday unhappy with how the internal investigation into the program was handled.

The families of Jacqui Grant, Taylor Gleason and Taylor Tuck were the first to send letters to Wise, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas and others in late April with allegations of verbal abuse and racism against head coach Matt Bollant and associate head coach Mike Divilbiss, who left the program Monday.

The families of Amarah Coleman, Alexis Smith, Nia Oden and Sarah Livingston were all signees on the follow-up letter, which was first reported by The Daily Illini.

“The players and player families of the University of Illinois Womens’ (sic) Basketball Team listed below do most strongly object to the manner in which the ‘internal investigation’ of mistreatment and abuses by the coaching staff was handled and is currently being handled by your office,” the follow-up letter stated.

“We find this protocol unacceptable as well as completely disrespectful to the student athletes and their families affected by the coaches and coaching staff involved in these patterns of abuse. Please do everything in your power to put a swift end to this ongoing embarrassment.”

Tuck and Oden graduated from the university on Saturday. Grant and Coleman have both committed to transfer to DePaul, Gleason is headed to Oakland and Smith to Wagner with an extra year of eligibility gained by missing all of the 2014-15 season with an injury. Livingston left Illinois following the 2013-14 season and transferred to Southern California to play volleyball.

The UI responded to the letter with a statement Thursday that said the health and well-being of student-athletes at Illinois is the university’s No. 1 priority and any allegations of problems are taken seriously. The remaining allegations of medical mistreatment from Gleason and former football player Simon Cvijanovic are being investigated by the Chicago law firm Franczek Radelet.

“A rush to judgment before the investigative work is completed is premature,” the UI statement concluded.

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jbballo wrote on May 21, 2015 at 10:05 pm

How is Mike Thomas so oblivious to what is going on here? Seven! Yes, Seven girls have spoken out about the mistreatment they received from Bollant and Divilbiss. What else is it going to take to fire Bollant. Good for these families for standing by what they said and having the courage to come forward and do what is right.  Bollant, if you're reading this, learn from these girls and do what is right... Step down, please!

tonyjb37 wrote on May 22, 2015 at 7:05 am
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Fire everyone right now even mike thomas, whoever does the firing needs to get rid of everyone that has anything to do with the athletic department.

Ewylde wrote on May 22, 2015 at 8:05 am

As an alum of the U of I (1971) and a season ticket holder in football for over 30 years, I am disgusted with the handling of the abuse allegations.  Mike Thomas must go immediately.  He has embarrassed the University with his arrogant and insufficient answers to the situations in football and womens' basketball.  Time for the new President to be a leader, set the tone, and accept nothing but excellence and class--two things that are sorely missing at the present time.  If Thomas is still AD when the football season begins, my 30+ years of attending games will be over.  Losing programs are not new to Illinois but having little class and questionable integrity should be unacceptable at a great state university.

RPeterE wrote on May 22, 2015 at 10:05 am

Mike Thomas knew about the coaches' history of abuse before he hired them. It has followed some of them around for 20 years at previous schools they have coached at. Thomas should never have hired Bollant, Divilbiss and Beckman due to their history of abuse and mistreatment but making it even worse, Thomas allowed this 'culture' of abuse and racism to continue here at Illinois. Thomas, Beckman and Bollant all need to be terminated. The sooner the better for Illinois.