On April 18, Business Wire released a summary of an ongoing lawsuit against Molly Goodenbour, USF’s women’s basketball coach, that detailed student athletes’ accusations of verbal and emotional abuse. In light of this report, our staff reflected on the pervasive misconduct in USF’s Athletics Department that has been an exigent issue on campus.
It is heartbreaking to us that three scandals within our Athletics Department have surfaced within a year. It suggests USF’s lack of supervision of their employees and a lack of care towards how students are treated.
We choose to believe the students’ allegations, and we challenge those who don’t believe them to consider why the athletes would put themselves in the spotlight, and put themselves through a lawsuit if these claims were untrue? This situation is the result of a coach abusing her authority and her place in these students’ lives without administrative consequence.
This is a pattern that alludes to more than just the pain caused to students, and it’s more than just a pattern of abusive players and coaches. It’s a pattern of negligence from an uncaring University.
Why was Goodenbour hired after being forced to leave UC Irvine for accusations of student abuse? When others were aware of her continued abusive behavior at USF, why was it those being abused, the players, who had to take legal action for any chance of recompense? And as for McDermott, who holds so much responsibility within the athletics program, how has she been able to maintain the position despite her apathy towards the toxic culture in her department?
Players should not be subjected to emotional abuse, should not be the target of racist remarks, should not be forced to play while injured, and definitely should not have to file a lawsuit to bring attention to these problems. This issue should have been nipped in the bud, and this coach should have been fired before it evolved to this point.
It’s no secret that collegiate athletics, in general, have allowed for the creation of a toxic culture that has harmful effects on athletes’ well-being. This week marked the third suicide of college athletes since March and programs around the country have promised to increase mental health services for their athletes.
How do we move forward? How does the University show that they care about their student athletes? When they are profiting so much off of them, the very least they can do is make an environment where students feel safe and supported — free of abuse.
On March 30, President Fitzgerald stated in an email that his cabinet and the Board of Trustees would be “undertaking an external program review of athletics, which will include outside experts in athletics, culture, governance, and accountability.” The email also said that the review would “include outreach to our community to provide input and insight,” and that Fitzgerald would “share details with the community soon.” Two months later, it appears that this review is greatly lacking as misconduct within USF Athletics continues to affect the community, and students have not yet been notified about taking part in the review process.
Incoming students are going to be wary of joining the Athletics Department in the future, because of the reputation of misconduct that is building amongst our sports teams. No matter how much the University touts an image of social justice and equity, cases like these will continue to undermine that image. No one should have to go through abuse like this, especially at the hands of someone they are supposed to look up to, trust, and who is supposed to be a mentor.
We give all of our love and respect to the students who have come forward and hope that there can be a resolution to all of this, and a more thorough investigation into the Athletics Department before more incidents of abuse can occur or continue to occur without change. Seeing how the University has handled other cases like this in athletics, we don’t have much hope or optimism.
It’s disheartening to wrap up the 2021-22 academic year with yet another scandal within the Athletics Department and leaves us with great uncertainty for the future of our school. What will it take for this cycle to end?