Teri McKeever, the longtime women’s swimming and diving coach at the University of California, was fired Tuesday after an investigation of athletes’ allegations of harassment, verbal abuse and bullying, the school said in a statement.
“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Athletic Director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the team and athletic department staff.
The school placed McKeever on paid administrative leave in May after athletes alleged to the Orange County Register that she “verbally and emotionally abused, swore at and threatened swimmers on an almost daily basis [and] pressured athletes to compete or train while injured or dealing with chronic illnesses or eating disorders.” The Register reported that the allegations had been reported to school and athletic department officials, including Knowlton, on multiple occasions since 2010.
“I want to apologize, on behalf of Cal Athletics, to every student-athlete who was subject to this conduct in the past, and I want to thank everyone who had the courage to come forward and share their story with the investigators,” Knowlton wrote Tuesday. “Looking to the future, I acknowledge that there have been evolving standards in intercollegiate athletics when it comes to how we develop our student-athletes to be their best, on and off the fields of competition.”
McKeever was fired after a nearly 500-page report, commissioned by the school and compiled by California law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, upheld the accusations of more than 40 swimmers that “Coach McKeever yelled personal insults and epithets,” used humiliating and belittling language and singled out athletes for abuse on the basis of race and disability. The law firm determined that the actions violated the campus’s 2016 anti-bullying policy and that she had used abusive language against 15 swimmers before that. McKeever also is under investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
Danielle Carter, one of the swimmers who spoke out about McKeever’s conduct, told SFGATE in December that McKeever made her feel like she was “no longer a human being” and “property for Teri to use at her disposal.” McKeever’s favorite insult for her and others, she said, was “piece of s---.” Six other swimmers told the Register the same thing.
One swimmer, granted anonymity by Sports Illustrated, wrote in an essay in June: “These women were my classmates and friends, and over time I began to see the effect that Teri’s behavior had on them. They cowered at her wrath and inevitably inferred that there was something wrong with them. Whatever Teri made fun of or chastised, my friends would focus on fixing, even if they couldn’t because the problems were physical — challenges with Crohn’s disease, eating disorders, and shoulder and ankle injuries. Many of her targets developed mental health problems and began doubting themselves. Were they being too sensitive to their injuries? Were they letting their teammates down? I was relieved that I wasn’t a target, but my stomach churned at the thought of living in their shoes.”
Dave Durden, the school’s longtime men’s coach and the coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s team at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was named acting director of the Cal men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs in August. David Marsh, another decorated Olympic coach, was hired as associate head coach of both programs.