Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions of sexual harassment.
Syracuse University launched an external investigation into allegations against women’s basketball head coach Quentin Hillsman, an SU spokesperson confirmed.
Sarah Scalese, senior associate vice president for university communications, called the allegations “troubling” in a statement to the media.
“Based on the nature of these allegations, Syracuse University is engaging an outside firm to conduct an independent review and will take appropriate action based on its outcome. While no formal complaints have been made to date from members of the women’s basketball program, we take these allegations very seriously,” Scalese said in the statement.
Tuesday, The Athletic reported allegations of inappropriate behavior, threats and bullying against Hillsman. The article — which came from interviews with nine former players and 19 others, including managers and staff members — detailed Hillsman’s use of vulgar language. One former player remarked Hillsman threatening players with phrases like “I’ll f— you guys up. I’ll f— you up. It’s gonna be your ass if you f— this up,” The Athletic reported.
Another player told The Athletic she felt violated when Hillsman “came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, placing his hands near her pelvic region before brushing it off as a joke.”
In a recent interview with syracuse.com, Director of Athletics John Wildhack said of Hillsman, “I totally support him. I support the values that he has for this program. I support the standards that he holds everyone to.”
The article comes after 11 players announced their decision to transfer from Syracuse following the Orange’s second-round loss to top-seeded Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. Atlantic Coast Conference Kiara Lewis, Emily Engstler, and rookie of the year Kamilla Cardoso were among those who transferred. Since then, Syracuse has added seven players from the transfer portal who will join the No. 11-ranked recruiting class and three returning players.
The Athletic reported that in 2019, Hillsman also allegedly created a staff position and hired his longtime friend Ronnie Enoch, who was previously dismissed from a coaching job due to accusations of sexually harassing a player. The article stated that Enoch made several Syracuse players and managers uncomfortable with his actions, such as asking one woman if she was menstruating.
According to the article, one Syracuse player filled out a questionnaire about her experience and stated that the weaknesses of the coaching staff were “Ego, manipulation, controlling, disrespectful to women/girls, anger issues, mood swings, gas-lighting (sic), lying, emotionally abusive, not caring, doesn’t communicate, doesn’t follow through, empty threats (fear tactics), anytime any girl is talked to we are disrespected in some way.” No one from the university followed up with the player, the article said.
The article also states that Hillsman mistreated some of his female coaches and staff members, at times “silencing them with a hand in their face if they yelled instructions during a practice or game or talked during drills.”
In a statement to The Athletic, Wildhack said, “Learning after-the-fact through the media that a student-athlete has had a concerning experience limits our ability to investigate an issue in real-time. We urge any student-athlete – from across all sports, past and present, to bring to our attention any incidences of inappropriate behavior so we may initiate an investigation. We also implore student-athletes to be candid in their exit interviews. The only way our leadership can address issues is if we know about them.”
In early 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated a Title IX claim against Hillsman for sexual harassment. According to The Athletic, the complaint — filed by Gary Lampkins on behalf of his daughter Lynnae — detailed instances of “mental, physical and emotional abuse” and a text message from Hillsman to Lynnae that said “I love you. I miss you. I can’t wait to see you.” Hillsman denied the charges and Syracuse stated its investigation found no wrongdoing, the article said. The outcome of the Title IX claim is unclear, The Athletic reported.
Former Syracuse women’s basketball players Tiana Mangakahia and Alexis Peterson defended Hillsman on Twitter after the release of The Athletic’s article on Tuesday morning.
Mangakahia tweeted, “It’s sad when you don’t get what you want (minutes/contracts after college) you accuse others of things to make them look bad. If only I exposed some of my teammates for how they treated me once I was diagnosed with Cancer.” She told syracuse.com she doesn’t “remember any of this stuff” and she feels like some of the allegations are “made up.”
It’s sad when you don’t get what you want (minutes/contracts after college) you accuse others of things to make them look bad. If only I exposed some of my teammates for how they treated me once I was diagnosed with Cancer. 🥴
— Tiana Mangakahia (@Tianamanga) June 29, 2021
Peterson, a former All-ACC point guard, also tweeted her support of Hillsman. “These Syracuse players have honestly lost their minds . Transfer and move on peacefully,” she tweeted. “But this is a mans family and career y’all are playing with . I’m not here for it . Y’all need to grow the hell up.”
These Syracuse players have honestly lost their minds . Transfer and move on peacefully. But this is a mans family and career y’all are playing with . I’m not here for it . Y’all need to grow the hell up. #SaidWhatISaid
— 𝙰𝚕𝚎𝚡𝚒𝚜 𝙿𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 (@___PistolPete1) June 29, 2021
SU opened an external investigation into the allegations against Hillsman as of Tuesday afternoon. Syracuse Athletics and Hillsman have yet to comment publicly.
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