The University of North Carolina announced Monday that it would be placing its entire women’s basketball coaching staff on paid leave when the school reviewed the culture of the program.
No specific reasons were given for the review, which will be undertaken by Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, a law firm based out of Charlotte.
UNC Cites ‘Issues Raised by Student-Athletes and Others’
According to a statement released by the school, the review will “assess the culture of the women’s basketball program and the experience of [UNC’s] student-athletes.”
“The University of North Carolina is committed to the well-being of our student-athletes and to ensuring that they have the best experience possible in and outside of competition,” the statement read. “Due to issues raised by student-athletes and others, the University has initiated a review of our women’s basketball program.”
That program has been coached by Sylvia Hatchell since 1986. Over her time as a college basketball coach, Hatchell has compiled a record of 1,023-405, and is 751-325 with North Carolina, making her the winningest women’s basketball coach in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference. She helped led UNC to a national title in 1994, and is the only coach to win championships at the NCAA, NAIA, and AIAW levels.
“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” Hatchell said in a statement. “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.”
Hatchell’s Program Under the Microscope Again
This isn’t the first time that Hatchell’s program has been looked at by the school. Back in 2016, the women’s basketball program was put under the microscope during an NCAA investigation into how athletes benefitted from what appeared to be bogus African Studies courses.
While the entire athletic department was under scrutiny, it was only women’s basketball that suffered any consequences. Jan Boxill, who served as an academic counselor for the team, was the only athletic staff member who was charged with wrongdoing, as the NCAA found that she had provided improper help to players.
“I’m heartbroken that this has happened to women’s basketball, that we’ve been put in this position,” Hatchell said at the time, according to The News & Observer. “And so it’s hard to believe, to be honest with you.”
Since then, Hatchell’s teams have struggled, failing to make the NCAA Tournament for three straight years before bouncing back with an 18-15 record this season. That was good enough for the Tar Heels to earn a nine seed in the tournament this year, though the team did lose 92-72 to California in the first round.
The university has not commented further on the situation, other than to say that there is no timetable for the review.
Other UNC athletic programs have had to deal with controversy over the past year as well. In August, 13 players were suspended from the North Carolina football team for selling special edition shoes that were given to the team.