After escaping NCAA sanctions in 2017, North Carolina women’s basketball is back under the microscope
The University of North Carolina announced today that the entire women’s basketball coaching staff has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a review to “assess the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of our student-athletes.” Those on leave include head coach Sylvia Hatchell, who has led UNC for 33 years, associate head coach Andrew Calder and assistant coaches Sylvia Crawley and Bett Shelby.
The announcement was made via a press release from the university which stated that Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, a Charlotte law firm, would handle the review. The university’s statement referred to “issues raised by student-athletes and others,” but did not provide details regarding the focus of the review or a timetable for its completion.
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A member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, Hatchell worked the sidelines while the Tar Heels went to three Final Fours and were crowned the 1994 National Champions. Prior to being hired at North Carolina, she won national titles at the AIAW and NAIA levels with South Carolina’s Francis Marion University, making her the only coach to win titles at three intercollegiate levels.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Hatchell released a statement via her attorney, Wade Smith:
"“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” her statement read. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life.“I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all.“Of course, I will cooperate fully in this review. I look forward to a prompt conclusion of this matter and the continuation of our very successful women’s basketball program.”"
Hatchell has been trying to revive her program following the academic scandal involving sham classes that rocked UNC athletics. Although the NCAA Committee on Infractions determined in October 2017 that they did not have the authority to sanction North Carolina, Hatchell and her supporters felt that women’s basketball was sacrificed during that investigation in order to protect the football and men’s basketball programs.
The Tar Heels returned to the NCAA Tournament this season after a three-year absence, but were eliminated by California in the first round.
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