Wichita State Shockers

Parents of former Wichita State women’s basketball players lobby for NCAA involvement

Wichita State coach Jody Adams celebrates after cutting down the net following the team clinching a share of the MVC title on March 1.
Wichita State coach Jody Adams celebrates after cutting down the net following the team clinching a share of the MVC title on March 1. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State’s resolution of the inquiry into its women’s basketball program did not satisfy some parents of former players. It frustrated and angered them to the point they are hoping to bring the attention of the NCAA on coach Jody Adams.

This group, according to several parents, sent letters from parents and former players and recordings to the NCAA that document their complaints about Adams and the treatment of athletes. Also included, parents say, is an account of what they describe as a lack of medical care. There are eight parents and former players directly involved in the information sent to the NCAA, while a group of perhaps 10 to 15 more that contributed or offered support.

“We felt like we had nothing that we could do but go to the NCAA,” said Nancy Agnello, mother of former Shocker Valerierose Agnello. “We’re going to wait and ride it out and see what’s going to happen since Wichita didn’t want to take care of things. The girls have gone many times (with concerns to the administration) and they’ve gotten nowhere.”

In April, WSU president John Bardo ordered an inquiry into Adams and the women’s basketball program after four players, two of them starters, decided to leave the team. The departures prompted concerns about the treatment of players and the number of transfers during Adams’ tenure, which started in 2008. Faculty athletic representative Julie Scherz interviewed 38 former and current athletes, coaches, parents and others. On May 5, WSU and Adams released a joint statement that “renewed their commitment to ensuring positive experiences for student athletes in a successful program.”

As a result of the inquiry and a meeting between WSU administrators and Adams and her lawyers, women’s basketball players and coaches will work with a consultant in sports psychology. The release also said that players will have “enhanced open lines of communication” to athletic administrators, although specific steps were not described.

“I acted out of concern for the welfare of our student athletes,” Bardo said in the statement. “Dr. Scherz found a strong difference of opinion among players; some whose complaints about Coach Adams were numerous and concerning; others who held Coach Adams in high regard. The agreement we reached with Coach Adams today is intended to promote a positive culture in the program for all players.”

These steps do not seem adequate to the parents of some former players who left the program and complained of emotional and verbal abuse.

An open-records request by The Eagle revealed that Scherz did not prepare a written report and no recordings were made at the May 4 meeting. Notes from the meeting, if they exist, were not required to be made available under the Kansas Open Records Act, according to WSU vice president and general counsel Ted Ayres.

WSU has made a change in oversight of women’s basketball by handing that responsibility to executive director of athletics Eric Sexton, according to deputy athletic director Darron Boatright. Senior associate athletic director Becky Endicott formerly supervised the sport.

“Once I learned there was going to be no consequences, I sent a blanket statement in hopes that the NCAA would open an investigation,” said Ruth Preston, mother of former player Marissa Preston. “Our first concern is that the situation doesn’t continue to happen to other girls. Second, is to give the girls that have transferred out some dignity.”

An NCAA spokesman confirmed receipt of the materials and said the issue would be forwarded to the enforcement program. He declined further comment.

Former players have complained of practice times exceeding the NCAA limit of 20 hours a week, but Wichita State has denied those accusations.

“We take the health of our student-athletes very seriously,” Boatright said in a statement. “There were claims of this nature that came up in our review of the program and we and our training staff looked into those. We are comfortable that appropriate care was given to our student-athletes.”

WSU revealed in an open-records request to The Eagle that women’s basketball had committed seven NCAA secondary violations since 2011, most for impermissible contact with recruits. Once, in November 2011, the team was not given an NCAA-mandated day off during a week.

Michaela Dapprich, Moriah Dapprich, Alie Decker and Kayla White are the most recent players to depart the program. They met with Scherz for almost 90 minutes and describe an atmosphere of negativity, isolation and control. Next season’s team will not have a returning starter. Of the seven newcomers on the roster for the 2013-14 season, five departed with eligibility remaining.

“I can confirm that we have written letters to the NCAA regarding the situation … asking them to look into the matter because of the seriousness of it all,” said Pam Dapprich, mother of the Dapprich sisters.

Briana Jones spent the 2013-14 season at WSU before transferring to NCAA Division II Drury (Mo.). Her mother said this most recent action comes after she mailed a letter to Sexton and the NCAA a year ago detailing her concerns. She also communicated with Scherz during WSU’s inquiry.

“It talked about the experiences my daughter had while she was there, some of the emotional trauma she went through,” Cathy Jones said.

Adams’ supporters, who include former players, assistant coaches and fans, portray her as a demanding coach who pushes her athletes on and off the court. WSU has won three straight MVC titles and made three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, unprecedented success, under Adams.

“What Jody was trying to do was pull something out of you that you didn’t see yourself,” Marisah Henderson, who played at WSU from 2008-10, said in April. “They were very demanding, but I didn’t feel they crossed the line. The remarks made were the same made by any coach.”

The angry parents are comparing WSU’s handling of these developments to others of a similar nature in college women’s basketball.

▪  At Illinois, the university investigated claims that “coach Matt Bollant and former associate coach Mike Divilbiss mistreated injuries, verbally and emotionally abused players and created racial tension on the team,” according to the Chicago Tribune. The university’s review found no NCAA or university violations. That also created divisions among former players, some of whom supported the coaching staff.

▪ In April, according to the Boston Globe, Boston University coach Kelly Greenberg resigned after four players quit the team and complained of bullying.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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