The George Washington Colonials have found stability and success under fifth-year coach Mike Lonergan, but according to the Washington Post, players were been pushed to their breaking points in the process.
Following the Colonials' N.I.T. championship in April, a player went to the school's Title IX office to file a complaint only to find out that the office had previously looked into a similar situation and that it had "been handled."
“I understand you met with Coach about similar issues before,” the player wrote to Title XI coordinator Rory Muhammad in an email obtained by the Post.
“But this concerns me and my teammates because it seems as if nothing was taken seriously. This worries me because if I (and others) choose to leave the University, word of Coach Lonergan’s verbal and emotional abuse, as well as player mistreatment would eventually be known among the greater community.”
Lonergan has been at George Washington since 2011, amassing a 97-70 record in Foggy Bottom. But the former Vermont head coach has seen 13 players transfer out. Some transfers left simply for playing time, but for others that was not the case.
“I don’t think the guy should be in sports,” a former player said. “I don’t think what he said should be tolerated. I would like to stay at GW. I will not play for Mike Lonergan.”
The 50-year-old native of Bowie, Md. declined numerous interview requests, issuing only an emailed statement, according to the Post.
“I will not respond to anonymous, unfounded allegations,” Lonergan said. “These types of accusations have already been investigated by the University and found to be groundless."
The abuse ranged from the offensive to the obscene, according to the Post. Lonergan allegedly told one player he should transfer to a "transgender league," and told another his son will always be on food stamps. The constant verbal abuse was so bad that it led a player to seeking therapy.
But perhaps the scariest part of the report is that following the 2014-15 season in which Lonergan was warned about his before and the athletic department took steps to monitor and curb his behavior, the head coach went out of his way to insult and ridicule the athletic director Patrick Nero.
Players said Lonergan shared his distaste for Nero in a manner both inappropriate and outlandish. Five current and former players said Lonergan made explicit remarks about Nero, among them telling them to avoid Nero because he was obsessed with them.
Five current and former players said Lonergan told players Nero requested the practice tapes so he could masturbate while viewing them in his office. The players said Lonergan also told them Nero had engaged in a sexual relationship with a member of the team. Players said they found those comments to be shocking and offensive, with no grounding in reality.
It's a damning report that puts the program — and Lonergan's tenure — on potentially very thing ice.
Despite a successful 2015-16 season that saw them defeat No. 6 Virignia, the Colonials graduated the bulk of their offensive output, and have only one player remaining from the fiver-person class of 2014.
There are plenty of coaches who toe the line of harsh criticism and verbal abuse. But the current climate doesn't allow the latter to occur and coaches who frequently cross the line are going to be called on it.
And handed out swift punishment.