Cal fires longtime swim coach after bullying report

Longtime Cal women’s swimming coach Teri McKeever was fired Tuesday, eight months after the university put her on leave. Swimmers had alleged that McKeever abused them for years, claims that Cal said Tuesday were backed up by an independent investigation into McKeever.

The news was first reported by Scott Reid of the Orange County Register. Reid broke the story of McKeever’s long record of abuses in May 2022.

A law firm commissioned by Cal interviewed dozens of swimmers in an investigation that ultimately produced a 482-page report, Athletic Director Jim Knowlton told swimmers in an email. (A university spokesperson provided the email to SFGATE and other news outlets. The heavily redacted report is now public record.)

“The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin, and disability discrimination,” Knowlton wrote. “The report also details verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I was disturbed by what I learned,” Knowlton said.

Reid’s reporting over the course of 2022 uncovered at least nine swimmers who considered suicide while being coached by McKeever. McKeever, who is white, was also accused by five swimmers of using a racial slur.

Danielle Carter, one of the swimmers who spoke out about McKeever’s conduct, told SFGATE previously that McKeever made her feel like she was “no longer a human being” and “property for Teri to use at her disposal.” She said that McKeever’s favorite insult for her — and whomever else McKeveer was targeting at any given time— was “piece of s—t,” something six other swimmers also told the Register.

Throughout 2022, former and current Cal swimmers raised questions about the urgency and independence of the investigation. McKeever had close ties to the leadership of the Cal athletic department and was tremendously successful in her career, coaching athletes to four NCAA team titles and dozens of Olympic medals. 

While McKeever’s firing was the only direct result of the report, Knowlton admitted some fault in his message to the swimmers. “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,” he wrote. “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 is at least the sixth Cal coach in the past six years to face serious accusations of abuse and misconduct. She was also under investigation by the U.S. Center for Safesport, which has the ability to ban individuals from USA Swimming events. The center reportedly finished interviews for that investigation months ago but has not released any findings publicly. As of Tuesday, McKeever was still not in the organization’s disciplinary database.

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