UWGB Will Retain Men's Basketball Coach Brian Wardle

UWGB Will Retain Men's Basketball Coach Brian Wardle

Complete statement from UWGB Chancellor Tom Harden regarding the conclusion of the investigation into head men's basketball coach Brian Wardle   
Statement regarding Men's Basketball --- Friday, May 24, 2013

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has taken allegations of misconduct against head men's basketball coach Brian Wardle very seriously. Within hours of learning of these allegations, I announced that an impartial external investigation would be conducted. The University hired a respected local attorney, Mr. Joseph M. Nicks of Godfrey & Kahn, to provide a thorough, comprehensive and independent investigation of a complex and difficult situation. He was assisted by attorney associates in his office. The resulting report is helpful in understanding what is factual, what is not, and what areas remain unclear. I have thoroughly reviewed the report, and I believe it has provided a sound basis for my decisions regarding Coach Wardle and his status here at UW-Green Bay.

Mr. Nicks has organized his report around three primary allegations:

A pre-season drill involving a student who was ill;

Alleged verbal abuse, including vulgar and obscene language and the suggestion a player would improve if he had sex; and

An allegation that a student athlete was prevented from majoring in a science or pre-med track because it would interfere
with basketball.

After interviewing more than two dozen individuals and working many hours discerning the facts, Mr. Nicks has concluded that a good deal of what was alleged did not occur as it was stated in the complaints I received in April.

It is clear from Mr. Nicks' report that there is no evidence Coach Wardle, the coach's staff, or others engaged in physical abuse at any time. Mr. Nicks and University personnel, including myself, have received a number of letters and emails from former players and others in the community regarding Coach Wardle. The vast majority of these testimonials have been very supportive of the coach and the positive influence he has had on players' lives and academic and athletic careers. Coach Wardle has been with UW-Green Bay for eight years (five years as an assistant coach and three years as head coach) -- and, to my knowledge, the complaints received this year are the first about his treatment of players.

It is important for me to briefly address the three categories of allegations outlined above, beginning with the pre-season training session in which a player was ill. As you will note in the report, the "better evidence" indicated that Coach Wardle did not force the player in question to keep exercising although he was not feeling well. Furthermore, the report does not indicate that Coach Wardle humiliated the player in front of the team, as was alleged. However, I do believe, as does Mr. Nicks, that Coach Wardle should have more appropriately sent the player back to the locker room at an earlier point in the drill.

As to the accusations of verbal abuse, let me first state unequivocally that I do not condone the notion, as some have suggested, that Division I basketball "culture" should allow coaches to mistreat players or direct obscene or vulgar language toward them. We do not accept this sort of treatment or language in the classroom, and we should not accept it on the court or in the locker room. This report sheds light on improvements we can, and will, make as an Athletics Department and as a University.

There are certain words that are unacceptable -- period -- and Coach Wardle has acknowledged they are unacceptable. Mr. Nicks' report shows Coach Wardle has, at times, used such unacceptable language in criticism and comments to players, though whether it was specifically directed at particular players remains unclear. Coach Wardle has acknowledged the need to stop using certain offensive words in his dealings with student athletes, and I am confident he will be able to do so. As to the report of allegedly encouraging a player to have sex, there is disagreement regarding the words used and whether it was said one, two or three times. Coach Wardle has said his close relationship with the team led him to make this comment once in a joking manner. However, as I have told Coach Wardle, making this sort of statement, whether joking or not, is not acceptable.

The third major point in Mr. Nicks' report pertains to an allegation that a player was prevented from pursuing a particular academic major because it would interfere with basketball. As you will see from Mr. Nicks' report, he found there were logical reasons the player was not able to take all of the courses he wanted to take. Because the individual was a freshman, his course preferences were not given the same priority as they would have been were he an upperclassman when the basketball team's practice schedule was set.
I accept Mr. Nicks' conclusions regarding these three primary allegations, and after careful, lengthy consideration, I have determined the University will take the following actions pertaining to Coach Wardle:

Coach Wardle will be permitted to continue as head men's basketball coach, but his contract will not be extended during 2013 (beyond his current contract ending date of 2017). Future extensions will be reviewed on an annual basis;

A disciplinary letter addressing Coach Wardle's use of vulgar and obscene language and his suggestion that a player have sex will be placed in his personnel file;

Coach Wardle will be assigned an adviser for the 2013-14 season, with the goal of improving some of the ways in which he motivates student athletes;

Coach Wardle will be required to be more involved in University-wide activities in the future, to better understand the broader University environment.

The University will take additional actions to address issues raised during the investigation. In response to the Nicks report, the Athletic Department will draft, and I will approve, a Statement of

Expectations for coaches and staff within the next 60 days. Additionally, we will work to ensure student athletes know how they can communicate concerns without fear of reprisal.
I do not take these actions lightly. There will likely be those, here at the University and in the broader community, who will disagree with the steps I have taken. I urge anyone with an interest in this case to read the entire report before drawing conclusions.

From the outset, my foremost concern has been fair treatment of all parties involved in this situation. It is why I acted swiftly to initiate a thorough, independent investigation, and why I have chosen the aforementioned actions based on the outcome of the resulting report. The past several weeks have been difficult for everyone this investigation has touched, and I appreciate the patience of all involved. I believe UW-Green Bay Athletics, and this great University as a whole, will learn from this experience, and move forward, stronger, together.

Tom Harden
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