Former Illinois women’s basketball players’ allegations of racially motivated mistreatment were unfounded, investigators hired by the school concluded in a report released Monday that also found that one former assistant coach “treated players harshly.”
Seven former players sued the university, coach Matt Bollant, athletic director Mike Thomas and others July 1, alleging Bollant and some other coaches used race to divide the team and drive players out. The players — Amarah Coleman, Alexis Smith, Taylor Tuck, Nia Oden, Sarah Livingston, Taylor Gleason and Jacqui Grant — are seeking at least $10 million in damages.
The report from Pugh, Jones & Johnson law firm in Chicago concluded complaints from players and parents started after a string of seven losses late in the 2014-15 season and included no real evidence of a racial divide. However, the report acknowledged former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss’ treatment of players was judged as harsh by some and recommended changes such as a code of conduct for coaches.
“There is no evidence that the coaches did not honestly believe they put the best team on the floor, without consideration of players’ race,” the report concluded.
The players’ attorney, Terry Ekl, said he wasn’t surprised university-paid investigators would issue a report favorable to the school.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise said she is “relieved” the law firm “found no evidence of racially based abuse” but that she takes the recommendations for changes “really seriously.”
“We care very, very much about the welfare of our students,” she said.
James sues Fox Sports over firing
Former college football television analyst Craig James filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Fox Sports that contends he was fired because he had expressed opposition to gay marriage during a failed run for the U.S. Senate.
The former Southern Methodist running back is seeking at least $100,000 in damages. Fox hired him in August 2013 — months after he lost the Texas Senate primary to Ted Cruz — only to fire him days later.
James was a longtime color commentator for ESPN who quit to run for the Senate in 2012. During the campaign, James said he opposed gay marriage and that gay people would one day “have to answer to the Lord for their actions.”
• Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd and defensive end Rori Blair are suspended for the Sept. 5 opener against Youngstown State, coach Pat Narduzzi announced. Boyd was charged with drunken driving in June; Blair was charged with driving under the influence of a drug after he was clocked at 117 miles per hour in March.
• Recently dismissed Utah cornerback Dominique Hatfield was charged with misdemeanor assault in a fight during a party last month, his second recent run-in with police.
AROUND THE HORN
Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden lowered her own world record in the 100-meter butterfly to win the gold medal at the world swimming championships in Kazan, Russia, and then Katinka Hosszu of Hungary erased a world mark from the high-tech suit era to claim the 200 individual medley. Earlier Monday, American teenager Katie Ledecky bettered her own world record in the 1,500 freestyle preliminaries. Four world records were set in the first two days of pool swimming — all by women.
Olympics: Rio de Janeiro Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao signed a deal with several Brazilian universities and research institutes to develop a plan for cleaning up the polluted waters of the city’s sewage-strewn Guanabara Bay, where Olympic sailing events will be held.
NHL: Ottawa forward Mike Hoffman was awarded a $2 million, one-year contract by an arbitrator. Hoffman, 25, asked for $3.4 million and the Senators offered $1.75 million.