December 18, 2014

Wardle to keep his job at UW-Green Bay

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Thomas Harden announced today that he will retain the University’s Men’s basketball coach

Brian Wardle

Brian Wardle

after an investigation into allegations he mistreated at least one former player.

Harden outlined the actions the University will take against Wardle.

1) Coach Wardle will be permitted to continue as head men’s basketball coach, but his contract will not be extended during 2013 (beyond his current contract ending date of 2017).  Future extensions will be reviewed on an annual basis.

2) A disciplinary letter addressing Coach Wardle’s use of vulgar and obscene language and his suggestion that a player have sex will be placed in his personnel file

3) Coach Wardle will be assigned an adviser for the 2013-14 seasons, with the goal of improving some of the ways in which he motivates student athletes.

4) Coach Wardle will be required to be more involved in University-wide activities in the future, to better understand the broader University environment.

The investigation started April 11, after Harden received a written complaint from the parents of former player Ryan Bross, who alleged that Wardle ridiculed him with vulgar language after he defecated in his shorts during a preseason training exercise, told him he would be a better player if he had sex with a girl he was interested in dating and refused to allow him to take classes for his major.

Wardle has coached in Green Bay for the last eight years, the first 5 as an assistant and the last 3 as the head coach.

Nicks organized his 39 page report around three primary allegations:

– A pre-season drill involving a student who was ill;

– Alleged verbal abuse, including vulgar and obscene language and the suggestion a player would improve if he had sex;

– An allegation that a student athlete was prevented from majoring in a science or pre-med track because it would interfere with basketball.

Harden said in a statement, “After interviewing more than two dozen individuals and working many hours discerning the facts, Mr. Nicks (Attorney & investigator Joseph M. Nicks of Godfrey & Kahn) has concluded that a good deal of what was alleged did not occur as it was stated in the complaints I received in April.”

“It is clear from Mr. Nicks’ report that there is no evidence Coach Wardle, the coach’s staff, or others engaged in physical abuse at any time.  Mr. Nicks and University personnel, including myself, have received a number of letters and emails from former players and others in the community regarding Coach Wardle.  The vast majority of these testimonials have been very supportive of the coach and the positive influence he has had on players’ lives and academic and athletic careers.”

“It is important for me to briefly address the three categories of allegations outlined above, beginning with the pre-season training session in which a player was ill.  As you will note in the report, the ‘better evidence’ indicated that Coach Wardle did not force the player in question to keep exercising although he was not feeling well.  Furthermore, the report does not indicate that Coach Wardle humiliated the player in front of the team, as was alleged.  However, I do believe, as does Mr. Nicks, that Coach Wardle should have more appropriately sent the player back to the locker room at an earlier point in the drill.”

“As to the accusations of verbal abuse, let me first state unequivocally that I do not condone the notion, as some have suggested, that Division I basketball “culture” should allow coaches to mistreat players or direct obscene or vulgar language toward them.  We do not accept this sort of treatment or language in the classroom, and we should not accept it on the court or in the locker room.  This report sheds light on improvements we can, and will, make as an Athletics Department and as a University.”

“There are certain words that are unacceptable, period, and Coach Wardle has acknowledged they are unacceptable.  Mr. Nicks’ report shows Coach Wardle has , at time, used such unacceptable language in criticism and comments to players, though whether it was specifically directed at particular players remains unclear.  Coach Wardle has acknowledged the need to stop using certain offensive words in his dealing with student athletes, and I am confident he will be able to do so.  As to the report of allegedly encouraging a player to have sex, there is a disagreement regarding the words used and whether it was said one, two or three times.  Coach Wardle has said his close relationship with the team led him to make this comment once in a joking manner.  However, as I have told Coach Wardle, making this sort of statement, whether joking or not, is not acceptable.”

“The third major point in Mr. Nicks’ report pertains to an allegation that a player was prevented from pursuing a particular academic major because it would interfere with basketball.  As you will see from Mr. Nicks’ report, he found there were logical reasons the player was not able to take all of the courses he wanted to take.  Because the individual was a freshman, his course preferences were not given the same priority as they would have been were he an upperclassman when the basketball team’s practice schedule was set.”

Harden went on to say, “The University will take additional actions to address issues raised during the investigation.  In response to the Nicks report, the Athletic Department will draft, and I will approve, a Statement of Expectations for coaches and staff within the next 60 days.  additional, we will work to ensure student athletes know how they can communicate concerns without fear of reprisal.”

“I do not take these actions lightly.  There will likely be those, here at the University and in the broader community, who will disagree with the steps I have taken.  I urge anyone with an interest in this case to read the entire report before drawing conclusions.”

Brian Wardle said, “I am happy this investigation has been completed and I accept the University’s decision.  I am focused on moving forward, as we are all excited about the possibilities for the upcoming season and the future of Green Bay basketball.  Throughout this process, my primary concern was for my family, and the members of our program, who had to deal with allegations that the investigation has proven to be false.  But I am also incredibly thankful for their support, and the support of so many others, while my cooperation with the investigation did not let me defend myself publicly.”