A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

External review of NKU women’s basketball program finds no evidence of ‘emotional abuse’ by head coach

NKyTribune staff

Northern Kentucky University has released the findings of the external review of the women’s basketball program that was conducted by DBL Law (Dressman Benzinger LaVelle) after several former players made allegations of emotional abuse against Norse head coach Camryn Whitaker last month.

The report said the independent investigators “cannot substantiate emotional abuse by Whitaker to any player nor see any basis for any Title IX concerns with Whitaker or within the WBB program.”

NKU released a statement on the findings, saying, “We are pleased to learn that our internal appraisal of the women’s basketball program matches the findings of the independent review conducted by DBL Law. The well-being of our students is a top priority and guided our decision to have an external party review the program. From the onset, we have stressed the utmost importance of adhering to our core values, especially conducting ourselves with integrity.”

Independent investigators said they cannot substantiate emotional abuse by NKU head coach Camryn Whitaker to any player nor see any basis for any Title IX concerns with Whitaker or within the WBB program. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

According to DBL Law’s report, “We contacted 37 individuals and 33 agreed to participate in an interview. Those offered an interview included all individuals directly involved with the WBB program including current and former players under Whitaker as well all assistant coaches to Whitaker, administrators, athletic trainers, team managers, and other NKU staff who were involved with the WBB program in some respect.”

The report said nearly 50 hours were spent on the investigation.

“We met with each person for an average of one hour with some taking more time and some taking less time. We asked each person a list of questions and provided the individual with an opportunity to express any thoughts or concerns. If the interviewee had any documents, texts, emails, videos, etc., we asked for a copy and reviewed it.

“Each person was also told if they had any other information to share after the interview to contact us and several did. We gave each person as much time as they wanted to provide information.”

The report sums up its results with no findings of emotional abuse.

“In interviews with all coaches, staff, and administrators involved with the WBB Program, each individual denied that Whitaker is verbally or emotionally abusive to the players. Nor had any player complained about or reported behavior that the coaches, staff or administrators felt was abusive.

“Several of the individuals interviewed attend all practices and travel with the team. Accordingly, they spend a significant amount of time with the players and Whitaker. Whitaker maintains an open practice which permits any individual, including parents, to attend practices. Several staff and administrators who are not required to attend practice indicated that they have, at times, stopped in at practice.

“When interviewed, all coaches, staff, and administrators were supportive of Whitaker and the program. Several shared that they came to the program because of Whitaker and have stayed at NKU because of her and the program she is building.”

The report also states the players making the accusations “did not get significant playing time.”

“There were four players who alleged that Whitaker was emotionally abusive to them as a coach but 10 who felt the experience at NKU was positive and that no abuse occurred. All but one player who was critical did not get significant playing time. Of the 10 who were positive, there were several who received minimal time but were still supportive. One of the former players transferred due to lack of playing time but said Whitaker is a good person and means well. Of the players who were critical of Whitaker and reported emotional abuse, only one received a notable amount of playing time. The others averaged between 3.1 – 22.1 minutes per game during the 2017–2018 and 2018-2019 seasons.

“We determined that the alleged comments fell into three categories: (1) comments could not be substantiated; (2) comments occurred but were not concerning as it relates to emotional abuse; (3) comments were taken out of context and were not abusive when all factors were considered.”

In a statement, NKU athletic director Ken Bothof said, “We are confident in Coach Whitaker’s leadership of the program and excited for the future of Norse women’s basketball. In remaining true to NKU’s dedication to the growth of our people, we will continue to provide the support both Coach Whitaker and our student-athletes need to further develop—personally, professionally and on the court.”

Whitaker also released a statement on the findings: “I care deeply about the women in our program, both as student-athletes and people. As we work to build a program everyone can be proud of and support, this experience gives us the opportunity to continue to reflect on the growth and development as coaches and players in our program. I am grateful for the opportunity to coach Northern Kentucky women’s basketball, for the support provided by Ken [Bothof] and the administration, and am excited for the future of Norse basketball.”

(Information compiled from DBL Law, NKU and staff reports)

Related Posts

Leave a Comment