Cal Women's Swimming head coach Teri McKeever on administrative leave
Cal swimmers walked out of practice on Wednesday morning after McKeever surprised them by reading a "basic" statement in response to Tuesday's report of longtime abuse
On Wednesday at around 5 P.M. PT, Cal Athletics announced that Women’s Swimming head coach Teri McKeever has been placed on administrative leave with pay. This is the not-unexpected response to Tuesday’s bombshell report that legendary and ground-breaking swimming head coach Teri McKeever “was a bully who for decades has allegedly verbally and emotionally abused, swore at and threatened swimmers on an almost daily basis, pressured athletes to compete or train while injured or dealing with chronic illnesses or eating disorders, even accusing some women of lying about their conditions despite being provided medical records by them.”
At least for me, the Mercury News page of the same article was easier to access.
“Today, Coach McKeever was placed on paid administrative leave,” Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement to SCNG. “This afternoon, in a meeting I held with team members I shared this news and expressed our commitment to support them in any way we can going forward. As reported, these allegations run counter to our core values and the expectations we have for every member of our department. As the person entrusted with the well-being of more than 1,000 student-athletes, coaches and staff, I have no greater responsibility than ensuring we do the right things in the right way. We will follow all university policies and protocols for investigating and addressing these allegations. We are replying to everyone, including parents and former student-athletes, who has reached out to us as quickly as we can, while we are also providing resources for members of the program who are in need.”
Knowlton told Cal swimmers Wednesday afternoon he was uncertain how long the investigation would take. The investigation will be conducted by a firm or group outside of the school, a university official said.
NBC Sports, the US TV broadcast rights holder of the Olympic Games, has also picked up this story.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cal swimmers walked out of practice after McKeever
“A majority” of the Cal women’s swim team walked out of practice on Wednesday, according to Scott Reid of the OC (Orange County) Register. The walkout came the day after Reid’s bombshell report detailing decades of verbal and emotional abuse by head coach Teri McKeever, citing at least 19 current and former members of the program.
Reid says that four people familiar with the situation said on Wednesday that newly-hired Cal assistant coach Jesse Moore told swimmers who are still in Berkeley that there would be a team meeting on Wednesday morning. When they showed up, head coach Teri McKeever asked them if they were “ready to swim.”
According to the OC Register, when the student-athletes were told that there was going to be a meeting, McKeever said that she had already read a statement, but then read what one swimmer described as a “basic” statement. No further details about the contents of that statement were revealed. A statement released by the athletics department on Tuesday used policy to not react to any of the specific allegations or address reports that the administration was already made aware of the complaints outlined in the report.
At that point, a “majority” of the swimmers walked out of the practice, some in tears, three people told Reid and the OC Register. They said that Moore followed the swimmers to the parking lot and asked if they were upset.
Since the semester has officially ended for most, not all of the Cal team were present on campus. Reportedly, the remote Cal Bears did video-in for a team meeting to be appraised of this developing situation.
Jesse Moore just joined Cal from being the head coach at Dartmouth last year. As the only other coach on the Cal women’s staff, he will likely be the interim head coach going forward, depending on how long this investigation on Teri McKeever will take.
Cal AD Jim Knowlton told the Cal swimmers that he was uncertain how long the investigation would take. What is also unknown is whether this investigation will include the roles of Knowlton, previous Cal AD Mike Williams, and other members of Cal Athletics.
Wednesday’s move comes a day after an SCNG investigation revealed that at least six Cal women’s swimmers since 2018 have made plans to kill themselves or obsessed about suicide for weeks or months because of what they describe as McKeever’s bullying. Worse yet, McKeever had callous responses after finding out about these attempts by responding either with more berating and/or moving to accelerate the process of removing these vulnerable student-athletes from her program.
From the OC Register article, Teri McKeever is also being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport for misconduct, according to SafeSport emails and three swimmers contacted by the center.
In addition to some Cal Athletics administrators who had covered for McKeever for years, USA Swimming may also be at fault for ignoring past reports of alleged bullying. Of course, McKeever’s role on the USA National Swimming team is different from that of absolute power over the Cal program. No non-Cal swimmers from the USA National Team have yet to accuse her of bullying them.
This article (Mercury News link) included more damning claims about how long Teri McKeever has operated this way and the indifferent response of past Cal administrators.
“Additionally, a letter, obtained by SCNG, shows that Cal chancellor Robert Joseph Birgeneau was made aware in 2010 of verbal abuse and harassment allegations against McKeever dating back to 2001. Another former Cal swimmer has confirmed to SCNG that McKeever allegedly bullied and verbally abused swimmers as early as 2000.”
In a Jan. 13, 2010 letter to Birgeneau, Jenna Rais, who swam for Cal between 2001 and 2005, said she was verbally abused by McKeever. Neither Birgeneau nor anyone in his office responded to her complaints about McKeever, Rais said.
It sure looks like generations of Cal administrators had been complicit with McKeever’s behavior for decades due to her results. The rising awareness of mental health problems of collegiate student-athletes has obviously changed how most people view these allegations between 2000 and 2022. Still, it is not a good look that past complaints had been completely ignored. Given how much Cal and Cal Athletics depend on alumni donations to operate every year, we shall see just how many heads will roll before the alumni base can regain confidence in our alma mater.
At this rate, more and more athletes are going to come out and say they were abused verbally and had thoughts about suicide. I mean who hasn't been verbally abused? Who hasn't thought about committing suicide? Anyone who finds herself unloved or without value is going to have those thoughts, especially if she is in a highly competitive environment. Did the coach tell her to die or kill herself? probably not. Did the coach push her to give it her best? probably Did she feel worthless because she wasn't the best? probably Is that the coaches fault? Back in my day, it wasn't. But today we're supposed to coddle anyone who makes such claim. You know what...we used to call it life. Life is hard and the beauty of sports is that it taught us life lessons. But in today's climate, we're just going to fire coaches. Our players are going to get soft. And in the olympics 10 to 20 years from now, the united states of america is not going to medal in anything. Why? because we're coddling our kids. And if you grow up in places like ukraine, you can't hide behind claims of mental illness or suicide ideation. You fight for your life or die. kids who grow up in countries like that are going to win. So I say all this so that we get the other side of the story. Let the coach have her day in court. let those swimmers who claim these things be cross examined. Am I defending the coach? No. But I'd like to think that we are a country who believes in due process. I think all of us would want that for ourselves or for the ones we love. It's might be easy for you to say they should resign. But believe me one day you could find yourself on the hot seat, and you're going to wish people were more understanding and fair.
At this point, we won't be able to attract top swimmers with McKeever anyway, so she can be fired.