Content warning: racism, verbal abuse
UC Berkeley has allegedly started a formal investigation into Cal’s Athletic Director, or AD, Jim Knowlton over the response to abuse allegations made against former women’s swim and dive coach Teri Mckeever, as first reported by the Southern California News Group, or SCNG, on Thursday.
Several then-current and former students alleged that they were being verbally abused by McKeever, SCNG reported in May of last year. This led to an eight-month investigation by Munger, Toller & Olson, a law firm hired by campus, which included a review of 1,700 documents and interviews of 147 people.
On Jan. 17, the firm concluded that there was a preponderance of evidence that McKeever “violated applicable University policies” in a nearly 500-page document. McKeever was fired from Cal on Jan. 31, 2023, after being placed on administrative leave May 25, 2022, per the firm.
The report described several instances, from anonymized former and then-current swimmers, of verbal and emotional abuse, including over swimmers’ weight and appearance, as well as allegedly using racially derogatory statements.
Now, campus is reportedly taking steps to investigate the role played by Knowlton and Associate AD Jennifer Simon-O’Neill in a formal investigation. According to the Orange County Register, complaints from both swimmers and parents of swimmers date back to 2010.
“In mid-February, after carefully reviewing and considering the investigative report concerning Coach McKeever, campus leadership directed that appropriate follow-on steps be taken. These steps include addressing matters that were outside of the scope of the investigation of Coach McKeever. These steps are currently being implemented,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email.
Campus did not comment on the specifics of these steps, including any details on the investigation and other people involved.
Knowlton was hired as AD in 2018. In an email to the women’s swim and dive program, Knowlton expressed that he was “disturbed” by what he had learned in the report produced by MTO.
Simon-O’Neill oversees the “athletic and strategic communications unit” as well as “gender equity and Title IX compliance,” according to the Cal Athletics website. Until May 2022 — after SCNG released its reporting on the complaints made against McKeever — Simon-O’Neill was the direct supervisor of the women’s swimming program.
The reported investigation comes at a time of increasing pressure on campus and Chancellor Carol Christ to investigate the involvement of Knowlton and Simon-O’Neill and the overall handling of the allegations and McKeever’s case by UC Berkeley.