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UC Berkeley taking unannounced steps after firing Teri McKeever; how will Jim Knowlton and Cal Athletics be impacted?
Will the California Golden Bears be investigating athletic director Jim Knowlton's failure to act early enough in the Teri McKeever scandal?
Teri McKeever might have been removed from the corridors of Cal swimming, but the fallout is ongoing.
UC Berkeley announced they will be taking further steps, although there wasn't much elaboration on what those next steps may be. More from Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof in this piece from the OC Register.
“While we won’t confirm that an investigation is ongoing nor will we contest or challenge any reporting that suggests as much.
Speaking generally there is nothing more important to the university than the health and well-being of our students and this administration will never hesitate to respond in an appropriate manner when it’s made aware of information related to the health and well-being of our students.”
44 Cal women swimmers (and one men’s), two dozen parents, and several administrators and athletic employees attested to the bullying behavior of McKeever, including verbal trauma, racial epithets, taunting, body shaming, and forcing swimmers to practice and compete while injured.
The initial investigation took eight months and cost $2 million.
In the article, many Cal swimmers who were witnesses in the investigation against McKeever expressed dismay that the Bears had taken only one step in firing McKeever, but had not gone any further.
One particular person of interest is athletic director Jim Knowlton, who was messaged constantly by swimmers and parents about complaints on the former women’s swimming coach. Those complaints were ignored and McKeever continued to receive near-annual salary raises. More from the OC Register:
University administration and athletic department officials including Knowlton, Simon-O’Neill and Sandy Barbour, Cal’s athletic director from 2004 to 2014, received between 2010 and 2022 more than 30 complaints from Cal swimmers or their parents alleging bullying behavior by McKeever, according to interviews, university documents and emails obtained by SCNG.
Despite the repeated complaints, Cal has paid McKeever just under $3 million in total compensation since 2010 and has given her eight raises in her base pay between 2010 and 2019, according to her contract and other university financial records. McKeever’s annual base salary has increased by more than 77% since 2010.
Another subject of ire is Jenny Simon O’Neill, Cal executive associate athletic director and close family friend of McKeever (O’Neill’s daughter is McKeever’s goddaughter). Many Cal swimmers allege it is impossible for her not to have known and certainly it looks likely she could’ve been part of the obfuscation of the complaints.
Current and former Cal swimmers, their parents and donors vehemently dispute any notion that Simon-O’Neill was unaware of McKeever’s alleged bullying and other forms of abuse. Simon-O’Neill had an office near the pool and was regularly seen on the pool deck and traveled with the team, according to the McKeever report, university documents and interviews. She also attended meetings where swimmers complained about McKeever’s alleged bullying and harassment, according to university documents and interviews.
McKeever has vociferously contested from the outset and is planning a countersuit of UC Berkeley, focusing on gender discrimination. Her focus will also be on Knowlton, who she claims was aware of her coaching style and conduct. Her lawyer Thomas Newkirk had this to say:
“Jim Knowlton, why he is apologizing to athletes when he knew how Teri coached the entire time he was there is beyond me,” Newkirk said. “It makes no sense.”
Newkirk also is aiming at the university for a poor administrative process that led to decades of swimmer abuse. McKeever’s legal reprsentation claims the lack of accountability and admonishment from the university and the athletic department enabled this environment.
“The university should have known better,” Newkirk said. “The adults in the room should have known better.
“A lot of coaches want to go after athletes. I tell them to keep their eyes on the prize, which is the university. If the university had a better protocol this never would have happened. If they had a better complaint protocol it would have been caught earlier and Teri would have learned from her mistakes earlier.”