An internal review of women’s basketball coach Jody Adams’ tenure resulted in Wichita State’s administration supporting its successful coach, while promising changes will be made.
Adams, coach at WSU since 2008, has been the subject of an inquiry into her program, directed by university president John Bardo and carried out by faculty athletic representative Julie Scherz. Four players, including two starters, quit the team after the season, prompting concerns about treatment of athletes and the number of transfers from the program. Scherz, according to a news release, interviewed 38 athletes, coaches and parents in recent weeks.
The release said Adams’ lawyer also interviewed the same people. The two sides met for two hours on Monday in Morrison Hall and, according to the release, agreed that the interviews produced conflicting results.
“I’ve dedicated my life to building a successful program that not only wins basketball games, but prepares young women for the rest of their lives,” Adams said in the release. “I regret if my efforts to build winning teams were ever seen as disrespectful of any person. I’ll continue to look for ways that I can improve both my coaching style and technique to help us win games and improve the lives of our players every day.”
As a result of Monday’s meeting, women’s basketball players and coaches will work with a consultant in sports psychology. The release also said that players will have “enhanced open lines of communication” to athletic administrators, although specific steps were not described.
“As the results of our review were discussed, Coach Adams showed that she has an understanding of the concerns about her coaching style, and she exhibited her willingness to work to constantly improve the women’s basketball program,” athletic director Eric Sexton said in the release.
The news release stated that WSU officials and coaches would not comment on Tuesday’s developments.
Adams participated in Monday’s meeting with lawyers Alan L. Rupe and Jeremy Schrag, along with Bardo, Sexton, Scherz, WSU vice president and general counsel Ted Ayres and senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright.
“I acted out of concern for the welfare of our student athletes,” Bardo said in the statement. “Dr. Scherz found a strong difference of opinion among players; some whose complaints about Coach Adams were numerous and concerning; others who held Coach Adams in high regard. The agreement we reached with Coach Adams today is intended to promote a positive culture in the program for all players.”
The four departing players, in their conversations with Scherz, describe an atmosphere of negativity, isolation and control that they can no longer stomach. Michaela Dapprich, Moriah Dapprich, Alie Decker and Kayla White met with Scherz for almost 90 minutes. Among their specific complaints are long practices that make it difficult to attend class on time, taking White’s car keys for three or four months before her father called, practice time that exceeds NCAA limits and a policy of keeping the circle tight that limits time and conversations with parents.
Scherz was charged with talking with former and current players by Bardo. These are not the first complaints of a serious nature leveled by outgoing athletes and parents.
The departures began during Adams’ first season and a group of four voiced their objections to Adams’ coaching publicly and others did so privately. WSU’s athletic administration and Adams attributed those problems to different philosophies after the coaching change.
In 2011, director of operations Dana Eikenberg, later promoted to assistant coach, used her forearm to pin a former player against the wall in a hotel during a road trip to California, according to the player, her mother and teammates. Eikenberg is now an assistant coach at Providence.
After the 2011-12 season, the entire team met with athletic director Eric Sexton to voice their complaints with Adams. In 2012, Sexton reprimanded Adams and the coaching staff after they made the players do pushups on the court during halftime of a game.
Adams has numerous supporters who characterize her coaching style as tough, but with the best interest of the athletes at its core. Several former players and co-workers have spoken on her behalf in recent days. On Friday, Missouri Valley Conference coaches showed their support on social media with a picture of them holding Adams aloft. The coaches met in Moline, Ill., to promote the women’s tournament move to a new city and took the impromptu photo.
“She’s one of the most caring and passionate people I know,” Southern Illinois and former Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “Every single one of us knows that in those kind of scenarios it could be any one of us if a kid goes rogue and starts throwing out accusations.”
WSU has won three straight MVC titles and made three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, unprecedented success, under Adams and her coaching staff.
In July, Adams signed a five-year contract, automatically extended each year, that pays her a base salary of $221,772.48. She is due a raise of $20,000 each year. The contract does include a section that allows WSU to suspend or terminate Adams for “good cause,” including professional misconduct, failure to supervise her coaching staff and provide oversight of the program and violation of NCAA rules.