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Players accuse GCU women's soccer coach of verbal, mental, physical abuse
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CrimsonPhantom Offline
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Players accuse GCU women's soccer coach of verbal, mental, physical abuse
Quote:The Grand Canyon University women's soccer team traveled to Southern California for a preseason match before the 2016 season.

They lost the August 13 contest and their performance frustrated new head coach Derek Leader, former players said.

The following day, after a six-hour bus ride back to GCU's west Phoenix campus, they were ordered to go directly to the university's outside track, they said. There, in 100-degree heat, Leader ordered them to run and do lunges for a mile.

Players who were there that day told The Arizona Republic that Leader's use of excessive exercise as punishment was the beginning of a pattern of alleged verbal, mental and physical abuse that created a "toxic environment" and left players feeling isolated, uncared for and mistreated.

When Leader wasn't satisfied with the players' effort on the first mile of running and lunges, he ordered them to do the exercises for another mile, the players said. One player said she pulled a hamstring but was told to continue. Another fainted. Others vomited.

Seven current and former players and their families have sent a demand letter to the private Christian university in Phoenix, asking for the removal of Leader and associate head coach Malorie Rutledge, and for an independent investigation into what they characterize as alleged abuse and possible NCAA violations.

They say they are not seeking financial compensation other than the recovery of legal fees and the costs of counseling for psychological issues and doctor visits. Most of the seven players were on athletic scholarships.

"We believe that the coaches for the women's soccer program have created a team environment ruled by fear in which the coach routinely communicates through sarcasm and intimidation, and in which trainers, doctors and student-athletes' concerns often go ignored or unvoiced," the letter said.

The 37-page letter detailed examples of alleged abuses by coaches, including injuries as a result of improper training, belittling and cursing and excessive exercise as punishment.

Rutledge is accused of using an expletive in an insult directed at female athletes in 2016, telling the players following a loss, "f--k you guys."

The letter was sent to GCU President Brian Mueller and Vice President of Athletics Mike Vaught on Nov. 13. The players' attorney provided a copy to The Arizona Republic.

Leader and Rutledge did not respond to requests for comment through an email sent to GCU and calls and texts to their cellphones.

Charles Hampton, GCU's associate athletics director, on Tuesday pointed The Republic to a five-paragraph statement on a university website regarding the players' allegations and said the university had no further comment.

The statement said the school conducted an investigation that "did not identify any conduct that would justify the actions demanded by the student-athletes."

It went on to say that an internal investigation found "the overwhelming majority of student-athletes on the team expressed support for the coaching staff, characterized their experiences as positive." The university also stated that one student-athlete sought compensation "by graduating debt free from GCU and two years of graduate school paid for," while another email from a parent sought $125,000 in compensation.

The university did not provide documentation to support its claims that an athlete or parent sought such compensation.

On Wednesday, The Republic requested additional comment, and university spokesman Bob Romantic said the school would have no further comment beyond the statement.

Officials changed course and issued a new, longer statement on Friday night, acknowledging some of the players' complaints but contesting others.

The families have retained Martin Greenberg, a Milwaukee attorney who has previously represented athletes alleging mental and physical abuse in the women's gymnastic program at Penn State and women's swimming program at Rutgers University. Coaches at those schools were fired in response to the allegations.

"This one is as bad as any one I have come up against," Greenberg said. He criticized GCU's internal investigation as being "not objective" and added that none of the students named in the Nov. 13 letter was personally interviewed.

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02-12-2019 03:29 PM
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gleadley Offline
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RE: Players accuse GCU women's soccer coach of verbal, mental, physical abuse
GCU and UMKC athletics dealing with serious student-athlete complaints at the same time. Banner day for the conference, huh?
02-12-2019 03:57 PM
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CrimsonPhantom Offline
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RE: Players accuse GCU women's soccer coach of verbal, mental, physical abuse
(02-12-2019 03:57 PM)gleadley Wrote:  GCU and UMKC athletics dealing with serious student-athlete complaints at the same time. Banner day for the conference, huh?

Yeah. Came across these articles a day apart on the D1 Ticker.
02-12-2019 04:39 PM
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Todor Offline
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RE: Players accuse GCU women's soccer coach of verbal, mental, physical abuse
Oh, but that was in 2016. They're non profit now. Lol.
02-13-2019 06:07 AM
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gleadley Offline
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RE: Players accuse GCU women's soccer coach of verbal, mental, physical abuse
(02-13-2019 06:07 AM)Todor Wrote:  Oh, but that was in 2016. They're non profit now. Lol.

I don't think the seriousness of the accusations should be minimized or dismissed. I'm just glad I'm not the one who has to decide what is considered in and out of bounds when it comes to coaching D1 student athletes for a Fall sport that begins practice/play during August in Phoenix, AZ.
02-13-2019 09:24 AM
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