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Syracuse University Director of Athletics John Wildhack said he “didn’t know anything at the time” about the allegations of harassment and bullying against former Syracuse women’s basketball head coach Quentin Hillsman when he stated his support of Hillsman on June 15 following the departure of 12 players.
Following the 2020-21 season, The Athletic released a story detailing allegations of mistreatment by Hillsman and several other members of the program. SU opened an external investigation into the allegations, and on Aug. 2, Hillsman resigned.
In his first press conference since the allegations arose, Wildhack reiterated remarks from earlier this week, stating that the investigation conducted by O’Melveny & Myers LLP uncovered “serious flaws” and “a failure of certain personnel to address or come forward and escalate” complaints of mistreatment to the appropriate people. Wildhack also apologized to those who “had bad experiences” with the program.
“There was a breakdown in systems and processes, and there was a breakdown of people who did not come forward and voice concerns to the appropriate personnel in the athletic department,” Wildhack said.
Other than a brief statement SU released about the investigation’s findings, the university said it will not release additional information regarding the case.
After Hillsman’s resignation, Syracuse announced associate head coach Vonn Read will fill the role as acting head coach for the 2021-22 season. Wildhack said Read could “provide stability and continuity” to the women’s basketball program following the allegations made against Hillsman.
“Coach Read is the architect of our system, both on offense and defense,” Wildhack said. “We are totally focused on providing maximum support for our 11 women’s basketball student-athletes who comprise this year’s team.”
Read previously coached with Hillsman for 10 years, and a recent article from The Athletic reported that several members of the athletic department were aware of the complaints against Hillsman. Wildhack declined to answer when asked if there was concern regarding Read not speaking out about the alleged harassment during his tenure.
“Coach Read has a good track record with this program, both from a coaching and team-building perspective,” Wildhack said. “That became very evident in speaking with members of this team, along with some parents and family members of current team members.”
Wildhack outlined a series of steps — including hiring an external expert to “build an environment that is supportive, empowering” and positions athletes for success — that Syracuse plans to take to enhance the program’s culture and address disturbing behavior. He said he is confident in the new process and system.
Over the course of the year, Wildhack faced backlash surrounding the handling of allegations regarding Hillsman and reports of assault by former SU men’s lacrosse player Chase Scanlan. When asked about his performance and areas in which he could improve on, Wildhack said he’s “always striving to improve” Syracuse Athletics. He was later asked how he would rate his performance as athletic director, to which he said, “That’s not my job. It’s other people’s job to grade my performance.”
University Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala also spoke briefly about the $118 million Carrier Dome renovations ahead of SU’s football home opener against Rutgers.
Following guidelines from the Onondaga County Health Department, fans will need proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken 72 hours before game time or a negative antigen test six hours before game time. In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, Sala encouraged fans to download digital copies of their vaccination cards and test results. An official form of identification that matches the name on the vaccination card or test result is also required upon entry.
In addition to checking vaccination cards and test results at the door, the university will offer five pre-screening tents around campus — two at Manley Field House parking lots, one on South Campus, one on the Quad and one on West Campus — so fans can validate their vaccination status or test results prior to entry upon the Dome. There, fans following the guidelines will receive a wristband to enter the game in a “fast pass” lane, Sala said.
When in the Carrier Dome, Sala said mask-wearing will be required unless fans are eating or drinking. He said mask-wearing will not be strictly enforced while in the Dome, parking lots or tailgate settings.
“We’re not going to be the mask police,” Sala said.
During the 2021 spring commencement, Sala said SU attempted to enforce mask-wearing by having users and ticket takers holding signs reminding attendees to wear a mask. But he said, “we didn’t feel comfortable about that” and referred back to simply asking people to cooperate.
Due to the increased screening process, Sala and Wildhack urged fans to arrive early to avoid missing planned pregame ceremonies.
Syracuse’s home opener against Rutgers will be the first full-capacity football game in the Carrier Dome since 2019.
The post John Wildhack discusses Hillsman allegations, Carrier Dome COVID-19 protocols appeared first on The Daily Orange.