On Tuesday morning, the University of Illinois reached a settlement in their lawsuit with a group of former women's basketball players. The school will be issuing a payment of $375,000, which will be distributed amongst the seven plaintiffs.
Former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss left the program last May after players detailed accounts of verbal, emotional abuse and discrimination to The Daily Illini. An independent investigation launched by the University last May found that there was no wrongdoing by the coaching staff.
Head coach Matt Bollant received a vote of confidence a few weeks ago, and he'll be returning for the team's 2016-17 season.
Here's the full University statement:
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and seven former members of the women's basketball program have reached a tentative agreement to resolve all pending claims against the university and former or current personnel. Under the terms of the resolution, which will be considered by the university's Board of Trustees at its May 19 meeting, the former student-athletes will receive a one-time settlement payment of a total of $375,000 to be distributed among the group to fully and finally resolve all claims brought by Amarah Coleman, Alexis Smith, Taylor Tuck, Nia Oden, Sarah Livingston, Taylor Gleason and Jacqui Grant in Coleman, et al. v. Board of Trustees, et al. (United States District Court, Central District of Illinois). This sum includes payment of fees to the plaintiffs' counsel, reflective of legal costs incurred by them.
The plaintiffs, former student-athletes in the women's basketball program at the Urbana-Champaign campus, filed a four-count Complaint on July 1, 2015, asserting numerous claims, including discrimination and civil rights violations, and seeking monetary damages.
While the university sincerely apologizes for the events that resulted in the filing of this lawsuit, the settlement of this matter in no way constitutes an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the university. The university maintains that independent investigations concluded the evidence did not support the student-athletes' grievances.
Interim Chancellor Barb Wilson's quote: "We're sorry that these students' experiences at Illinois did not meet our high expectations. This agreement reflects our genuine hope that they are able to progress to successful careers and lives."
Head Coach Matt Bollant's quote: "I sincerely apologize that these players did not have the positive experiences we desire and expect. We will continue to enhance our program to ensure that all players are treated with respect and feel comfortable in communicating with our coaching staff and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics."
A statement from Terry Ekl, the attorney for the plaintiffs, was also included in the press release. While outlining some of the negotiations that took place, he mentioned the following policies that have been implemented at Illinois to prevent similar situations in the future.
- The university has established a code of conduct for all coaches regarding their interaction with players.
- The university has appointed a compliance officer to ensure compliance with the coaches' code of conduct.
- The university has enhanced its efforts to inform student-athletes concerning the resources available to them for reporting and seeking assistance should problems exist with a coach.
- Enhanced racial sensitivity training for coaches and staff members.
Illinois also reached a $250,000 settlement agreement with former football coach Tim Beckman on Tuesday. So, clearly, it was a very busy and expensive day for Josh Whitman and company. The good news? The athletic department can finally move forward after putting these legal issues behind them.