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Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman resigns amid abuse investigation, allegations of school negligence

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Less than a week after he met with investigators looking into allegations of abuse and harassment, Syracuse women's basketball coach Quentin Hillsman has resigned. Athletic director John Wildhack released a statement about the departure of Hillsman, who had been the coach at Syracuse for 15 years. 

The University has accepted Coach Quentin Hillsman’s resignation. Coach Hillsman and I agreed that parting ways is in the best interest of the University, the program and our student-athletes. We wish him and his family all the best. Interim leadership for the Women’s Basketball Program will be announced in the coming days.

As previously announced, the University retained an external law firm to conduct a review of the program. That review is ongoing, and the Department of Athletics will address issues that are identified at the conclusion of the review.

Ronnie Enoch, a basketball team staffer and a friend of Hillsman's, is also no longer employed by the school. Players and staffers had accused Enoch of making them feel uncomfortable in The Athletic's report. 

Allegations of bullying, verbal abuse

That review of the program was spurred by numerous allegations of abuse and harassment from student athletes and staff, a number of which were published by The Athletic in late June. The school then announced that it would conduct an investigation into the program. 

When speaking to The Athletic, players on Hillsman's team accused him of routine verbal abuse, bullying and unwanted touching and kissing, behavior that allegedly dates back to 2010. They also allege that Hillsman constantly worked them too hard in practice, discounted their injuries and at one point forced a player with asthma to decide between playing time and using her inhaler after a series of punishing sprints.

While the investigation is still ongoing, there is one fact that can't be denied: Hillsman oversaw a mass exodus from his program over the last three years: 20 players have transferred since 2018, with 11 leaving in the last year alone. 

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 23: Syracuse Orange Head Coach Quentin Hillsman looks on from the sidelines during the second half of the game between the Fordham Rams and the Syracuse Orange on March 23, 2019, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Syracuse women's basketball coach Quentin Hillsman has resigned amid an investigation into his conduct. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What did school administrators know?

In June, when the allegations first came to light, Wildhack released a statement claiming that the school had no idea there were problems with the program, and that the article in The Athletic was the first they'd heard any of the allegations. 

Several players who spoke to The Athletic refute that, saying they brought their concerns about Hillsman to three university officials. Two of them allegedly did exit interviews with players, one as recently as last year. Both players told The Athletic that they plainly laid out their issues with the program and with Hillsman. Neither one ever heard from the school again. 

According to The Athletic, Kim Keenan-Kirkpatrick, a deputy athletic director who supervises the women's basketball team, did exit interviews with players and was listed on the travel logs for 35 of 39 road trips over the last three years. Players and managers told The Athletic that there's essentially no way she didn't know about at least some of the issues with Hillsman's behavior. She even allegedly witnessed one of Hillsman's tirades. Via The Athletic:

After a particularly bad loss at Notre Dame, Keenan-Kirkpatrick watched Hillsman berate the players on the plane; one person present said Hillsman called the players “asses” and “soft motherf***ers.” Two people present say Hillsman’s behavior didn’t appear to alarm Keenan-Kirkpatrick.

“Kim was standing there, listening to everything and kind of nodding,” one former staffer says. “I didn’t expect her to stop it, but I didn’t expect her to stand there with the body language of her accepting what was going on and what was being said.”

Keenan-Kirkpatrick also allegedly discouraged a player from petitioning for a hardship waiver from the NCAA due to the mental and emotional abuse she suffered while playing for the team, because the coaching staff wouldn't agree with any negative characterization of the program. 

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