Illinois fires women's coach, sued for abuse 2 years ago

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Matt Bollant, who had one winning season in five years and was sued two years ago for allegedly abusing players, was fired as the Illinois women's basketball coach Tuesday.

Athletic director Josh Whitman made the announcement three days after he fired men's coach John Groce.

Bollant was 61-94 overall and 22-62 in Big Ten play, but his time with the Illini was marked by complaints of racial tension.

Seven former players filed a lawsuit in 2015 accusing Bollant and former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss of creating a racially abusive environment. Bollant denied wrongdoing; Divilbiss quit after the allegations surfaced. A university report said the claims were unfounded but last year paid a $375,000 settlement to be divided among the players.

Whitman said the program is in a better place than when Bollant arrived.

''I would like to thank Matt Bollant and his staff for their many contributions to Illinois basketball during the last five years,'' Whitman said. ''They have faced great adversity, both on and off the court, yet have greeted every day with unyielding optimism and unmatched effort. They have maintained the well-being and personal growth of the student-athletes under their charge as their foremost priority and have been exceptional ambassadors for Illinois Athletics in our community and in basketball circles across the country.''

Bollant has one year left on his contract and will receive the balance of payment due, about $450,000.

Illinois hired Bollant away from Green Bay, where he was 148-19 in five years, led the Phoenix to five Horizon League championships and four straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

His first Illinois team, in 2012-13, went 19-14, tied for fifth in the Big Ten and went to the WNIT quarterfinals. But the Illini went a combined 42-80 the next four seasons and never finished higher than 10th in the conference.

''Our expectations for women's basketball ... match those that we have for many of our other sport programs: to compete at the highest level, year in and year out,'' Whitman said. ''I am excited to embrace a future for Illinois women's basketball where we realize the program's full - and virtually unlimited - potential.''

It's the third change in a year for the school's biggest athletic programs: Last March, Whitman hired former NFL coach Lovie Smith in an effort to turn things around on the football field.

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