Top 50 Cal Sports Moments -- No. 24: McKeever Report, 2022

Cal women's swimming coach Teri McKeever was one of the most successful coaches in the country until a scathing report changed everything
Teri McKeever at press conference at the 2014 USA National Championships
Teri McKeever at press conference at the 2014 USA National Championships / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the Pac-12 Conference era comes to a close after more than a century, we count down the Top 50 moments involving Cal athletics.

THE MOMENT: At 5 a.m. on Friday, May 24, 2022, the Orange County Register posted a story by Scott M. Reid alleging that Cal women’s swimming coach Teri McKeever had inflicted serious emotional abuse on the women in Cal’s swimming program over a number of years.  As a result of that report, McKeever, a former head coach of the U.S. Olympic swimming team and the head coach of four NCAA champion women’s swimming teams at Cal, was suspended and eventually fired.

THE STORY: Teri McKeever was widely considered as one of the best swimming coaches in the country, possibly the most successful women's swim coach in U.S. history.  McKeever had been Cal’s women’s swimming coach for 29 seasons and had won four NCAA team titles. Her Cal teams had finished in the top five in the nation 15 consecutive years before placing eighth in 2022.

She had coached 26 Olympians while at Cal, including Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin. McKeever became the first woman to head the U.S. Olympic swim team, and her swimmers won 13 medals in those 2012 London Olympics.

The applause for McKeever came to a halt on Friday, May 24, 2022, when an article by Scott M. Reid of the Orange County Register was posted by the Southern California News Group. It was a scathing report documenting allegations by Cal swimmers and their parents that claimed McKeever was a bully who had verbally and emotionally abused her athletes for years, allegedly using a racial epithet and causing six women on the Bears' swimming teams to contemplate suicide.

The swimming world was aghast.

Here is one excerpt from Reid’s long report:

“The interviews, as well as emails, letters, university documents, recordings of conversations between McKeever and swimmers, and journal entries, reveal an environment where swimmers from Olympians, World Championships participants and All-Americans to non-scholarship athletes are consumed with avoiding McKeever’s alleged wrath. This preoccupation has led to panic attacks, anxiety, sleepless nights, depression, self-doubt, suicidal thoughts and planning, and in some cases self harm.”

The report alleged that swimmers had complained about McKeever’s behavior to Cal athletic officials, but received little response.

Two days after the story broke, McKeever, then 60 years old, was placed on administrative leave by Cal. After an eight-month investigation into McKeever’s behavior, she was fired on Tuesday, January 31, 2023.

On December 29, 2023, it was reported that McKeever for the first time admitted abusing her former swimmers. She also agreed to a three-month suspension from involvement in any events sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. McKeever was also placed on probation for 12 months and could not have any contact with her former Cal swimmers.

*Top 50 Moment No. 25: Absent Crowd, 2020

* Top 50 Moment No. 26: Oski-Tree Fights, 1988, 1995

Only specific acts that occurred while the team or athlete was at Cal were considered for the Top 50 list, and accomplishments spanning a season or a career were not included.

Leslie Mitchell of the Cal Bears History Twitter site aided in the selection of the top 50 moments.

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Jake Curtis

JAKE CURTIS

Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.