Embattled Cal women’s swimming head coach Teri McKeever has been interviewed multiple times by attorneys hired by the university to investigate allegations that she bullied, and verbally, emotionally and physically abused dozens of Golden Bears swimmers throughout most of her 29-year career in Berkeley, her attorney has confirmed.
McKeever, the only woman to serve as head coach of the U.S. Olympic swimming team, will be interviewed at least one more time next week in Berkeley by attorneys from Munger, Tolles and Olson, the Los Angeles-based law firm hired by the university, according to Thomas Newkirk, her attorney.
McKeever, 60, has been interviewed by four Cal-hired attorneys as part of the investigation, Newkirk said.
McKeever, who has guided the Golden Bears to four NCAA team titles, was placed on paid administrative leave on May 25, the day after the Southern California News Group reported that the coach has bullied athletes on an almost daily basis for parts of four decades, and that Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton and Jennifer Simon-O’Neill, senior executive associate athletic director and the coach’s longtime close friend, and other Berkeley officials ignored or dismissed multiple allegations of the coach’s misconduct.
SCNG reported on August 19 that Golden Bears’ men’s head coach Dave Durden will coach both the men’s and women’s teams.
Three dozen current or former Cal swimmers and divers, 17 parents, a former member of the Golden Bears’ men’s swimming and diving squad, two former coaches, a former Cal administrator and two former Cal athletic department employees have told SCNG that McKeever routinely bullied swimmers, often in deeply personal terms, or used embarrassing or traumatic experiences from their past against them, used racial epithets, body-shamed and pressured athletes to compete or train while injured or dealing with chronic illnesses or eating disorders, even accusing some women of lying about their conditions despite being provided medical records by them.
Approximately 60 former Cal swimmers from the 1990s to this decade, representing the entirety of McKeever’s career in Berkeley, in two recent letters to Knowlton and other university officials have complained about McKeever’s alleged bullying and criticized Cal’s handling of those allegations, SCNG has confirmed.
More than 20 parents of Cal swimmers as well as Golden Bears swimmers from the 1980s, predating McKeever’s arrival in Berkeley, have also signed the letters.
Cal said in a statement that it responded directly to the alumnae and has no further comment.
McKeever has also been supported by some former Cal swimmers and their parents.
“My experience was extremely different than” the swimmers making the allegations against McKeever, Anya Hall, an NCAA champion, said in an interview “and it’s important to get both that out for all sides, everyone.
“I hope there’s an investigation into who’s making these allegations. Anyone can say anything. It’s all hearsay or perspective. There’s a fine line between freedom of speech and slander.”
Another former Cal swimmer Shelley (Harper) Sexton said in an interview that “Teri is one of the most important people in my life. She made me a better person and a better athlete and I thought people should know that.”
McKeever has declined repeated requests for comment.
Newkirk has argued that the bullying allegations are clouded by gender bias in the standards female coaches are held to.
McKeever, according to Newkirk, is the victim of both a double standard in how female and male coaches are viewed and judged, and how female athletes are socialized from a young age to report stress, injuries and frustration differently than male athletes.
Newkirk has stressed that top university officials were not only aware of McKeever’s coaching methods but have rewarded her.
Cal has paid McKeever just under $3 million in total compensation since 2010 and given her eight raises in her base pay between 2010 and 2019, according to her contract and other university financial records. McKeever’s annual base salary has increased by more than 77% since 2010.
Knowlton on Jan. 7, 2020, signed off on a five-year contract extension for McKeever potentially worth nearly $1.5 million and cementing her position as the nation’s highest-paid female college swim coach.
Cal declined to comment on questions about McKeever being interviewed as part of the investigation, citing state laws and university policies prohibiting officials from commenting on personnel matters.
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