Editor’s note: This story contains descriptions of abuse, language of a sexual nature, and references to suicide.
The Athletic reported Thursday that women’s basketball icon and former Texas Southern coach Cynthia Cooper Dyke used abusive and sexual language, endangered players’ physical and mental health with excessive penalties, and avoided a Title IX hearing on retirement complaints before her. It reportedly followed a pattern of Cooper-Dyke leaving programs for other jobs after making allegations to school administrators.
Chantelle Jennings and Dana O’Neill of Athletic detail more than a decade of alleged abuse during Cooper Dyke’s internship at Prairie View A&M, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Texas Southern, USC and again in Southern Texas where she retired at March. It was announced March 17, the day before the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament was set to direct the first round of action. Southern Texas praised her work and wished her success in the future.
He did not mention that the four-time WNBA champ and Naismith Hall of Famer were scheduled to attend an Act IX hearing on April 6 to investigate allegations of abusive behavior, according to The Athletic. The hearing was canceled because, according to Texas Southern policy, the complaint could be dismissed if “the defendant is no longer enrolled or employed by the university.”
The university was scheduled to introduce new basketball coach Vernet Skeet, who most recently worked as an assistant to Gary Blair at Texas A&M, Thursday morning. Texas Southern announced late Tuesday night that it has been postponed. No reason was given.
The Ninth Title hearing was the culmination of months of alleged behind-the-scenes actions by Texas Southern personnel to protect the women’s basketball team. On January 20, the school was reported to have issued a limited communication order stating that players cannot hold one-on-one meetings or communicate in any way with the coach as the school has undergone a “safety risk assessment”. On February 16, it was extended to include assistants and prohibited any contact outside of strictly scheduled practices and games.
Allegations of abuse against Cooper Dyke
Cooper Dyke has reportedly consistently used vulgar and sexist notes when speaking to players, according to The Athletic. Many players found it inappropriate, offensive, and offensive.
Some of the alleged incidents contained in the Athletic Report:
Cooper-Dyke was told that one of her South Texas players who had a previously known mental health diagnosis was depressed and said, “No, she’s going to be fine, she just needs some people, that’s it.” She described the same player as a “virgin ass”.
In a different case during the period from 21 to 22, I told the proposing employee, “Get out of my gym, go home. You’re a sorry bitch. You’re nobody.”
While a player was squatting, Cooper Dyke came up behind her and said, “Oh, your hips are big, you have a fat butt and I can tell you like to ride some squats.”
At UNC-Wilmington in 2010-11, she would say “wet, wet” after the shot is made and then move on to the player adding, “I bet that’s what [name redacted] It was last night.”
In southern Texas in 2012 and 2013, a male assistant complained of a lack of social life due to early practices. One player said that Cooper Dyke “proceeds to stand in front of him on her knees and acts pretty much as if she were giving him oral sex”.
When a player was slow to do rehearsals, Cooper-Dyke told the team it was because she was “stumbling” the whole time.
In most of the schools where I trained, at least one play was described as “hot sex” and players were often called “retarded”, “black-ass kid”, “bitch”, “r****” and “stupid”. She also pressured the players to train even though they were not cleared by the doctors after the injury.
A player at USC, where Cooper-Dyke won two national titles as a player, told The Athletic that the coach “mentally and emotionally terrorized us.” The players said it destroyed basketball for them and that they stuck together to “protect each other’s mind.”
One player on the USC Show told The Athletic:
“I was a mess and not a day went by that I didn’t think of suicide rather I had the idea to do it at Cynthia’s house so she could understand the devastating effect it had on me.”
Cooper-Dyke, who turned 59 a week after her scheduled Law IX hearing, was able to move from school to school without any allegations emerging, according to the report. Each ad included words such as “enormous impact” and “real good form to continue our goals” while wishing the coach the best. Even when school officials are reported to be aware of serious issues.
Cooper’s “GOAT” status influenced complaints
Several players The Athletic spoke to cited Cooper-Dyke’s standing in the sport as the reason they didn’t come forward or tell anyone about their experiences. A former USC player said she wrote a letter about all the abuse she witnessed and experienced, but that she never planned to do anything with the letter.
“how I can?” she said, via The Athletic. “It’s Cynthia Cooper. She’s a goat – a goat. And I’m me.”
Cooper-Dyke (who used her birth name, Cynthia Cooper afterwards) won two USC National titles and was a four-time MVP Finalist (1997-2000) for the popular Houston Comets franchise. She also has an Olympic medal in cup status and was named to last year’s “W25” list of the 25 greatest women players in WNBA history. She is one of 10 women’s players to have iconic boots, and the players she’s coached grew up hearing about her as a legend.
From “hero” to “manipulator”
Julia Finlay, a then junior at UNC-Wilmington in 2010 who watched the WNBA star grow up, said she gasped when the Hall of Famer entered the room for a training interview in which Finlay was asked to participate. Per The Athletic, she and a teammate “practically begged” to hire Cooper-Dyke.
Finlay’s views changed amid the alleged emotional and verbal abuse that involved coaching staff designing a punitive exercise in which she repeatedly taped the length of the field for 20 minutes, according to the report. She vomited frequently and had skin scrapes from her knees and shoulders. A reporter for the Wilmington Star-News happened to be in the gym and reported it. She was largely wiped under the rug, and teammates have reportedly asked to pick her or Finlay, citing the player as the problem.
Finley quit before the season started and told The Athletic that she was “very suicidal at that point. All I wanted was to play basketball and make her like me. She’s my hero.” She said Cooper Dyke manipulated her into losing confidence.
“There’s a quote I think of when I think of her,” Finley told The Athletic. “If you don’t change the shock, you will transfer it.”
harassment in training
The Athletic drew information from Cooper-Dyke’s book, “She Got Game: My Personal Odyssey,” detailing her childhood struggles and her views on life and basketball. Jennings and O’Neill included a rider that Cooper Dyke wrote in her book while playing in Italy. She said the coach did not like the player’s constant need for information and was yelling “shut up” at her even louder.
Via The Athletic:
I confronted him, thinking that he did not understand the negative tone of the wording. Instead, he used it again and when she attacked him, he sometimes kicked her out of practice.
At USC, players recalled that Cooper-Dyke similarly would sometimes answer questions from players or her assistant coaches with “shut the f*** up.” In the middle of some games, she would sometimes yell at them with lines like: “Do you think you’re smarter than me?”
The allegations against Cooper-Dyke may be the most well known due to her name and stature, but they are not the first of their kind.
The list includes allegations of mistreatment of women’s basketball coach Cameron Newport in Florida that were made public last October. Neubauer resigned due to “personal reasons” months ago in July. Syracuse coach Quentin Hilsman issued his resignation last August, less than a week after he met with investigators looking into allegations of harassment and abuse. Twelve players from Orange entered the transfer portal, raising questions about the programme.
The National Football League is still dealing with alleged abuse by coaches in its ranks. The abuse has reportedly been going on for years and even decades across various leagues and levels in some cases. They were able to move to different players, including upward mobility, even when the people in power were aware of the allegations.