NCAA Hoops Coach Exits With Hefty Payout—and a Trail of Scarred Players

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

An NCAA Division I women’s basketball coach finally resigned this week after years of abuse allegations, including racism and homophobia. But former players are outraged by her “amicable” departure and hefty six-figure severance payout, telling The Daily Beast that her alleged misconduct goes way beyond the recent allegations that led to her exit.

Northern Kentucky University announced on Friday that it had cut Camryn Volz’s contract short following an investigation into alleged abusive behavior. An anonymous report filed to school officials on March 5 alleged that Volz frequently engaged in “racial remarks,” “homophobia,” and “constant degradation of mental health,” according to a redacted human-resources document reviewed by The Daily Beast. A week later, another anonymous report further claimed the coach had “created an environment where fear and manipulation [were] used to” make members of the team “compliant.”

Through a lawyer, Volz denied all of the allegations made against her.

A photo of Camryn Volz on the sideline

During its investigation, university officials met with all the players on the women’s basketball team, assistant coaches, and other athletic personnel. According to the human resources report, student-athletes accused Volz of racist behavior: regularly mocking Black players’ hair and comparing it to “a horse’s mane,” asking if they were going to get their hair done before the next game, and telling one player that she was looking “rough and tough like they were going to beat someone up because of their hairstyle.” The school’s probe also found that the head coach allegedly made racially insensitive comments about certain cities being dangerous and that she had to “get on” a player who was from one of those places.

Student-athletes claimed that Volz was flippant and inappropriate about her players’ sexuality, especially when they behaved in gender-nonconforming ways, according to the report. She allegedly outed one player on the team, joked about gender stereotypes and made fun of players for so-called masculine behaviors, and had an “overstepping interest” in players’ sexuality. The team further alleged that Volz mistreated players experiencing mental health-related issues by ignoring them, claiming they were “weak,” or badgering them if they cried.

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Overall, players and staff members interviewed by the school said Volz fostered a toxic environment, was aggressively angry and paranoid, and consumed alcohol during team-related activities.

According to the HR documents, “Volz defended her coaching style and described it wholly appropriate in a Division I basketball program.” She suggested that the players wouldn’t have complained had they won more games during the season.

“When you lose, everything’s magnified,” Volz said, according to the report.

Despite all of these allegations, NKU HR officials ultimately concluded that Volz’s behavior did not violate the school’s policies.

“Comments regarding hair styles and similar matters do not indicate intentional race-based harassment or discrimination or rise to the level of a policy violation. Comments and actions that allegedly showed discrimination based on sexual orientation either were misconstrued or not substantiated as a policy violation,” the HR report read.

However, the university still decided to cut ties with Volz without giving a specific reason.

In a statement, the Cincinnati-area school said it was “aware of recent media reports regarding alleged conduct by Coach Volz,” but an internal probe determined that she did not “violate any university employment policies.” Nevertheless, school officials said, “We have agreed that it is appropriate for a change in leadership of the women’s basketball program… NKU and Camryn Volz have amicably agreed that she will no longer serve as head women’s basketball coach.”

The university was effusive in praising the coach on her way out.

“NKU thanks Coach Volz for her eight seasons of service to the program. Coach Volz has been—and still is—appreciated throughout Norse Nation, and we wish Camryn and her family the best in coming years, both on and off the court. NKU will begin a search for the Norse’s next head women’s basketball coach immediately,” the school released in a statement. “We have agreed that it is appropriate for a change in leadership of the women’s basketball program.”

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Holz also received a hefty six-figure payout, according to NKU severance documents obtained and reviewed by The Daily Beast. The former coach will be paid more than $250,000 to walk away from her contract, including roughly $160,000 in severance, vacation payout, and other expenses. She will receive monthly payments just shy of $14,000 from May to October, and a prorated payment for the days in April following her exit. As part of the deal, NKU agreed that it will not “disparage or make adverse public statements about” Volz.

The circumstances surrounding Volz’s abrupt exit—the HR probe’s conclusions, the six-figure payout, and the publicly appreciative statements—have not sat well with alumni. The Daily Beast spoke with seven former student-athletes and parents, who all said they were appalled by the situation, especially since there had been multiple efforts over the past decade to raise red flags about Volz.

All of these players were in agreement that Volz operated like a “bully” long before recent allegations derailed her career atop the basketball team.

Kasey Uetrecht Avery, who played for NKU from 2014 to 2017, said that Volz’s coaching style was so abusive it caused her, the team captain, to abruptly quit during her junior year.

“She took everything to a personal level,” Avery said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “She was attacking my family and attacking who I was hanging out with on the team.”

The former forward claimed Volz would berate players if their parents shouted in the middle of games and held private meetings to lash out at players in ways that felt more personal than professional. Avery recalled: “[She] would just come after you as a person—not even as a basketball player—but just as a person.”

In one specific meeting, Avery said, Volz called her a bad leader and branded her as disrespectful. The coach’s leadership style poorly affected Avery’s mental health, the ex-player said, recounting how she found herself constantly anxious, checking her phone afraid of what Volz could have been messaging her.

During a break between two away games in Michigan, Avery decided she couldn’t take it anymore. She called her parents to pick her up and she “didn’t play again,” even though it was the middle of her junior year and she was the captain of the squad.

Avery said she filed a complaint with the Title IX office at NKU in 2017 and it went nowhere. (The school declined to comment on any Title IX matters.) “​​I was on my full scholarship my senior year without playing one minute of basketball,” she said.

Sha’Rae Davis transferred in 2016 to Northern Kentucky University during her sophomore year to play for the Norse. She said her relationship with Volz went downhill fairly early on after an incident during a team scrimmage.

“I fouled… and we lost. So, our team had to run,” Davis recounted to The Daily Beast. “I kind of put my head down and shook my head because I was upset at myself. We just lost; I’m very competitive. [Volz] thought I was shaking my head at the call she made because she started yelling at me instantly… because she thought I was… undermining her.”

Davis believes that Volz then began to retaliate against her, by not starting her in the next game, even though she’d started the entire preseason. Davis, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, said she believes the coach punished her for incidents involving her inflammatory bowel disease. The head coach also targeted her autoimmune disease. When the point guard had to take emergency bathroom breaks, she said, Volz would allegedly make a show of having the rest of the team do drills until she returned. (She previously detailed these claims in 2019 when another teammate publicly complained about Volz.)

“I hear yelling like screaming from the bathroom and I’m so confused,” Davis recalled. “So I’m already trying to hurry because you just kind of go to practice terrified… I run back out there, and she was making them run. They—literally—as soon as I got back out there, they stopped running.”

Davis further claimed that a “power-hungry” and “controlling” Volz isolated her from her teammates during games, forcing her to sit alone on the bench and punishing those who sat near her. The isolation was especially intense on the road, when Davis was made to stay by herself when the team lodged at hotels.

“[Volz] literally put Sha’Rae, a Black girl, by herself,” Avery said. “We normally stay with another person. [She] purposely told us to stay away from Sha’Rae, stay away from her, don’t sit next to her on the bus.” Avery added: “I got reprimanded because I sat next to her on the bench.”

Davis suggested Volz was more than just a notoriously tough coach who deployed aggressive tactics; she made the student-athletes resent their college experience. The former point guard said she doesn’t know any players from her time on the team who have gone back to NKU for alumni functions.

Samari Mowbray, who played for NKU from 2017-19, also suffered from a physical ailment that allegedly became the subject of ridicule by Volz.

“I just had my inhaler with me at practice and games,” recalled Mowbray, a guard who was diagnosed with sports-induced asthma in the eighth grade. “[Volz] said my freshman year—multiple times—that she didn’t believe in asthma, and that it just means you’re out of shape. So, she basically made me feel like I couldn’t bring my inhaler around.” At other times, Mowbray claimed, Volz pressured her to play despite a pulled hamstring; and another time allegedly cursed her out for telling her parents about chest pains before telling the coach.

Taryn Taugher, a point and shooting guard who played with NKU from 2015 to 2019, wasn’t surprised by any of the anonymous claims that finally led to Volz‘s exit.

Coach Volz, she said, kept a “crying couch” outside of the women’s locker rooms and might have listened in on conversations. “If she heard something she didn’t like, she would pull up in her office and ask why we were talking about her,” Taugher claimed.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Taugher said she cried a lot during her time playing college basketball and struggled to go to practice or class because of the alleged emotional abuse.

“You got a full-ride scholarship to the school, you should be excited about practice,” she said. “A lot of us hated it.”

Taugher recalled how Volz would consistently issue what felt like a threat to the team before each practice: “If I’m miserable, you guys are gonna be miserable. And I’m fucking miserable.”

Taugher’s parents told The Daily Beast how their daughter often called home and claimed Volz “had a personal vendetta” against her. “I would cringe every time she would call me in the evening because I just knew what was coming, and it was heartbreaking,” Maggie Taugher recalled. “I developed high blood pressure from that. Because of the stress, because she would call us every night crying, ‘Mom, I don’t know why she’s doing this to me. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. She screamed at me.’ We didn’t know what to do.”

A photo illustration of Taryn Taugher as a child and adult playing basketball

Taryn Taugher

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/Handout

Maggie and Terry Taugher tried to meet with Volz and personally confront her, but they said she proudly wore her coaching style as a badge of honor, bragging that she learned it from her father, a former baseball coach. They tried to speak to other members of the coaching staff but were unsure who to trust because word always seemed to get back to Volz. The coach would then take it out on the team in some form or another, the Taughers claimed, bashing players for squealing to their parents.

“We’re supposed to forgive, but this has been one person that I have a very hard time forgiving because of what she did to my daughter,” Maggie said of Volz.

“It was brutal,” Terry added.

In 2019, Taugher filed a new report with the university’s Title IX office, leading to an investigation of Volz’s conduct.

Taugher also wrote an essay for The Odyssey Online, publicly detailing her experience with the coach. “There is a deep, dark, hidden secret that lies within the women’s basketball program at Northern Kentucky University which has been swept under the rug by the athletic department for three years,” Taugher wrote in March 2019. “Northern Kentucky University’s athletic department seems to be willing to do anything to silence the multiple emotional abuse allegations against current women’s basketball coach, Camryn Whitaker.” (In response, eight players signed a letter, also posted to The Odyssey, defending Volz without naming her, claiming the demands they’ve faced from her “are not and have not exceeded the expected amount” for a Division I team.)

By May of that year, the school determined that Volz did not engage in emotional abuse, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The Taughers said the independent law firm hired by the university to investigate failed to bring in any psychologists or mental health specialists.

“Nothing’s worse than witnessing someone abusing your child and not being able to do anything about it,” Maggie lamented.

The Taughers were not the only parents to actively get involved.

Reece Mungar played for the NKU Norse from 2017 to 2019, until she transferred back home to Canada. At first, she loved playing for the university, but over time Volz’s abrasive coaching style wore on Mungar, and their relationship took a drastically negative turn when the young forward took a stand.

“We just had a loss, I believe, and it was a really bad loss,” Mungar explained to The Daily Beast. “And [Volz] was quite upset and she was going around the room asking everyone individually who’s in and who’s out and who’s buying into what she’s trying to put in place here. She instilled this fear in me and I was scared to speak out, but I just went for it anyway and I said, ‘No, I’m not bought in.’”

From that point forward, Mungar said, Volz would often berate her in frequent private meetings to the point of tears. It got so intense that Mungar’s parents told her not to meet with Volz without them present. When Volz found out, she allegedly barred Mungar from the next game and trashed her to the other players.

“That’s just so unprofessional,” Mungar said. “I got home, I talked to my parents about the situation, and then I remember I really wanted to go to the game so bad. So even though I was not allowed at the arena or on the bench or anything, I ended up actually sneaking into the building with a hood and baseball hat on and sat up in the nosebleeds and came in where all of the regular fans come in.” Mungar sat and watched the game, but was so terrified of being seen that she snuck back out once it was over.

A photo illustration of Kasey Uetrecht Avery as an adult and child playing basketball

Kasey Uetrecht Avery

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/Handout

Mungar’s father, Barry Mungar, was so incensed by Volz’s conduct that, in 2019—amid the school’s probe of Taugher’s claims—he directly contacted the university’s then-President Ashish Vaidya. In an audio recording of the call reviewed by The Daily Beast, Mungar urges the school’s top official, who mostly listened and emphasized NKU’s concern for student safety, to hear families’ concerns “and act responsibly.”

“[Players are] afraid that if they speak to someone, then that’s going to get back and they’re going to be targeted. There’s a pattern of people who speak out or stand up being segregated and ostracized… harshly, name called, belittled, punished,” said Mungar, who played on Canada’s 1988 Olympic men’s basketball team. “This is growing. This is the tip of the iceberg… [Volz’s] behavior is evil.”

He punctuated his broadside: “The truth will come out.”

The players who spoke with The Daily Beast expressed some relief that Volz will no longer coach the women’s basketball team. But they all voiced frustration that it took so long for the university to take the claims seriously—claims that echoed their experiences from years gone by.

“Do you hear us now?” Davis asked of NKU.

Volz and her attorney Maria Ante did not respond to a request for comment on these former student-athletes’ claims. But in a statement to The Enquirer, Ante said Volz was “aware of recent media reports regarding alleged conduct” and that she denies all of the allegations.

“These allegations do not represent my character and I strongly disagree with them,” Volz added through her attorney. “The matter was thoroughly investigated by NKU’s HR department, which determined that I committed no violations of any university policies. I’m thankful for my time at NKU and all the friendships and successes we’ve had along the way, on and off the court.”

But now that the Volz era at Northern Kentucky University has come to an end, some of the players who endured her alleged wrath now say there may be a silver lining from the experience.

“Honestly, she’s made me such a better coach,” said Davis, who now coaches at a private high school in Michigan. “What I’ve been through has made me such a stronger person in general.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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