One of the investigations into an Illinois athletics program has concluded.
The investigation into the women's basketball program — under fire and currently being sued for creating an environment of racial hostility — found no support for the accusations levied by former players that black and white athletes were treated differently by the coaching staff.
Illinois had Chicago law firm Pugh, Jones and Johnson conducted the investigation after letters written to the university chancellor by parents of former players accused head coach Matt Bollant and former assistant coach Mike Divilbiss of segregating practices and punishing white and black players in different manners.
The law firm found nothing to support those claims. Its report on the program recommended the athletics department clarify the expected conduct of coaches and making it easier for student-athletes to report their concerns.
“We find any allegations troubling, because they don’t reflect our values,” Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a university release. “Student-athletes are part of our Illinois family, and we want to ensure that their experiences are fulfilling and that they are able to work toward an Illinois degree and prepare for lives of leadership and impact.
“Going forward, we must ensure that our coaches and staff members have a clearer understanding of our core values and expectations and that our student-athletes never ever feel they have nowhere to go when they have concerns."
The law firm's report said that Bollant and Divilbiss, the latter of which left the program earlier this offseason, "acknowledged" that their coaching styles were too negative at times.
The report has this to say about Divilbiss, who was at the center of the players' allegations:
"Coach Divilbiss treated players harshly in a number of incidents and more harshly overall than other coaches. But we found no evidence that he criticized players differently or more frequently because of their race."
[MORE BIG TEN: Abrams injury brutal for Illini, who must again find replacement]
The external investigation followed an internal review conducted by the university. It is worth noting that the law firm was paid handsomely by the university to conduct the investigation, with one report from earlier this summer putting the price tag as high as $425 an hour.
The external investigation into the Illinois football program is still ongoing. Former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic levied many allegations at head football coach Tim Beckman, painting the coach as an abusive bully who demonized injured players and threatened to take players' scholarships away. Beckman refused to address that situation during last week's Big Ten Media Days.
Athletics director Mike Thomas, who in the wake of the allegations toward both programs announced a series of steps to better serve student-athletes, again mentioned his department's commitment to improving communication between student-athletes and administration when needing to address complaints with coaching staffs.
“Our top priority must always be the welfare of our student-athletes," Thomas said in a statement. "And when allegations like these arise, we will always take them very seriously and investigate them quickly, impartially and thoroughly. This review certainly reinforces our understanding that we can never have too many different avenues available to our students for them to report concerns or issues. We are already working to implement the recommendations made by Pugh, Jones and Johnson to create more and better ways to connect our athletes with the support we promise them when they make the choice to join an Illinois athletic program.”