Former athletes at the University of Illinois alleged abuse, racism and segregation by their coaches, according to a CNN report Tuesday. Players of the university's football team and the women’s basketball team also accused their coaches of bullying and forcing them to play through injuries.
Members of the women’s basketball team reportedly said that Mike Divilbiss, a former assistant coach, would say that the "culture" of black players was "poison" or "toxic." They also alleged that black players were segregated from the white players in hotel rooms during road games.
The former athletes reportedly said that if they were injured or did not perform well, they were constantly threatened that they would lose their scholarships.
"Look at what the university has to lose," Lydia Tuck, the mother of one former women's basketball player, told CNN. "I'm sure they're worried about Title IX funding. I'm sure they hope that we go away."
Some football players told the news network that their coaches physically abused them twice and another player with type 1 diabetes was mocked about his weight.
The report comes a week after seven former members of the women’s basketball team filed a lawsuit against the university, accusing head coach Matt Bollant and Divilbiss of civil rights violation. The players reportedly sought $10 million in damages. The plaintiffs accused that Bollant would call the black players "toxic" and "crabs" who pull each other down, the Associated Press reported.
According to the former players, Divilbiss verbally abused them by pointing out their learning disabilities, family issues or the neighborhood where they grew up. "He came after my character," Alexis Smith, a former player and one of the plaintiffs, told CNN. She said that Divilbiss lambasted her for moving in with two of her teammates. "He said, 'I feel like you are trying to poison these girls. Why did you even move in with them? You are trying to poison them.'"
"When I tried to defend myself,” she said, “he was like, 'Don't try to come after me, I'm the wrong person.' "
Taylor Tuck, an ex-member of the women’s basketball team and one of the complainants, reportedly said that bullying and racial tensions on the team were systematic and "epidemic." She also accused Bollant of creating "a culture of mental and emotional abuse."
No comments from either of the coaches were available, according to reports.
Mike Thomas, athletic director at the university, said that the allegations by the players were serious. "I was certainly troubled by all the allegations. And those allegations don't match our core values," he told CNN. "Certainly our student athletes need to be in an environment that's safe, that's healthy, that takes their well-being as primary importance."