New investigation launched into Illinois player allegations
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) The University of Illinois hired a Chicago law firm Tuesday and asked it to launch a second investigation into accusations of mistreatment made by the parents of former women's basketball players.
The investigation will be handled by Pugh, Jones & Johnson, and will focus on accusations that coach Matt Bollant and now-former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss verbally abused players and created racial tension on the team, university spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.
Those allegations were initially investigated by the school, which said no laws or university or NCAA policies were violated.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise, the top official at the Urbana-Champaign campus, and athletic director Mike Thomas made the decision to bring in the law firm ''because of the seriousness of the allegations,'' Kaler said.
''They are serious and we have decided to bring in an external firm to continue and finalize the preliminary review,'' she said.
Wise would not comment, and Thomas could not be reached for comment.
The decision follows a letter last week signed by the families of the three players who made the initial complaints and four more who said they objected to the university's initial, internal investigation. At least one family has said it may take legal action.
Players' families on Tuesday either declined comment or did not return calls from The Associated Press.
Accusations that women's basketball coaches pressured one of the players, Taylor Gleason, to play with a broken toe and that another, Jacqui Grant, was pressured to play through mononucleosis are being investigated separately by another law firm that is also looking at the football program. Former offensive tackle Simon Cvijanovic has accused football coach Tim Beckman and some staff members of pressuring him to play hurt and misleading him about an injury.
The university isn't sure when either investigation will be completed, Kaler said.
Divilbiss left the university earlier this month in what it described as a mutual agreement.
The university on Tuesday also announced a series of measures intended to ensure player well-being.
Some of those steps: hiring an ombudsman to hear concerns from players in all the school's teams about their treatment; additional staff training on the welfare of student -athletes; hiring a consultant to assess the school's athletic programs for potential problems; conducting weekly roundtables for players to meet with administrative staff and setting up a mentor program for former players to help current players.