Several players have allegedly accused Hatchell of making racially insensitive remarks and forcing them to play through injuries.
Hall of Fame UNC women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has been placed on paid leave "due to issues raised by student-athletes and others," after accusations were raised that Hatchell made a series of racially offensive remarks and that she tried to force players to play through serious injuries without proper treatment.
According to The Washington Post, Hatchell suggested that her players would get “hanged from trees with nooses” at an upcoming game if their performance didn’t improve. She also reportedly attempted to get her team to engage in a “war chant” to “honor” the Native American ancestry of an unnamed assistant coach.
The Post also reported that parents raised concerns about situations in which three players felt pressured by Hatchell to play through injuries. One player went on to need corrective shoulder surgery, another had a torn tendon in her knee, while a third said the longtime Tar Heel coach questioned whether or not she actually had suffered a concussion.
A group of more than six parents brought the allegations to the university's attention last Thursday at a meeting with administrators.
North Carolina has hired an outside law firm to investigate, but details have not been made public. The university has declined to comment outside of its initial announcement. After the school announced that the coach and her staff had been placed on leave pending the conclusion of the investigation, Hatchell released a statement saying that she will fully cooperate with the review.
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” Hatchell said. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life. I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all. Of course, I will cooperate fully in this review. I look forward to a prompt conclusion of this matter and the continuation of our very successful women’s basketball program.”
The outcome of the investigation could also impact the number of current Carolina players who are expected to transfer, per the Post. Four of the team’s 14 players have reportedly filed paperwork to transfer and two additional players may do the same if Hatchell remains in Chapel Hill.
Hatchell has been at Carolina since 1986. Her team finished the season at 18–15 after a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Cal. Hatchell is currently the fourth winningest coach in NCAA women's basketball history.