Former Bears allege abuses within Cal women’s soccer program

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include information from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, and former Cal women’s soccer player Olivia Sekany.

Multiple former Bears have come forth with allegations of verbal and mental abuse against Cal women’s soccer head coach Neil McGuire.

Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU investigated these claims of mistreatment, airing its special report titled “Surviving the Game” on Nov. 22.

Former players Hannah Koski, Olivia Sekany, Renee Thomas, Caroline Clark and Indigo Gibson are among the many to speak out against McGuire, who has served as the head coach for the Cal women’s soccer program for 13 years. The five athletes shared experiences that included fat-shaming, bullying and intimidation, to name a few.

During one 2018 incident referred to as“Raingate,” McGuire is alleged to have ignored his players’ health after multiple girls reportedly fainted after running in the rain, according to Sekany. Sekany and Clark – teammates at the time – recounted similar accounts of the workout.

“I got super light headed,” said Clark in an interview with KTVU. “I was laying on the training table with my feet up to help with the situation. And it was first me, then one more girl came down to put her feet up, then one more girl came down to put her feet up, and by the end of it there was just a row of girls about to pass out. Because he was overworking us so hard and no one understood why.”

In 2019, the former Bears took action by filing formal complaints to Cal Athletics Director Jim Knowlton to no avail.

“We have spoken with our coaches, student-athletes, departments staff, campus staff, parents of current Cal Women’s Soccer athletes, and others who interact with the Women’s Soccer program,” Knowlton wrote in an email, “(and) found that your allegations were not validated.”

According to Sekany, after multiple rejections to speak to the campus Office of the Chancellor, Office for Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination and the athletics department, the former athletes then reached out to the media. In response, Cal Athletics released the following statement to the Daily Californian: “Cal Athletics is regrettably unable to respond to allegations that involve personnel issues, privacy rights, student conduct issues, and/or pending litigation, regardless of whether or not the allegations are accurate. We wish that were not the case given how seriously we take claims of this sort.”

At the moment, there is no pending litigation, according to Sekany. McGuire remains the head coach of the Cal women’s soccer team as it heads into practice for a potential spring 2021 season.

The case is now being reviewed by the UCOP Office of Ethics, Compliance and Audit Services. When asked about the review process steps and expected date for a decision to be made, the UCOP wrote the following in an email to The Daily Californian:

“The University takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and is committed to fostering a culture of safety, respect and accountability.”

This is a developing story.

 

Ryan Chien covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].