Now that former Wisconsin-Green Bay walk-on center Ryan Bross has gone public with a the alarming accusations that sparked an investigation of coach Brian Wardle, what's at stake is finally clear.
Either eyewitnesses must corroborate Wardle's claims that the allegations against him are false, or the university should not let him coach another game.
In a story published Monday night by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Bross accused Wardle of calling him derogatory and homophobic slurs, interfering with his academic course choices and running him when he was ill during practice to the point where he lost control of his bowels. It's the stomach-churning details of that particular incident that are most galling to read.
When Bross told the coaches he was feeling ill and needed to use the bathroom before the team was to run hill sprints near campus during preseason conditioning in October, the freshman center said Wardle thought he was faking it. Bross said Wardle called him a "baby" when he asked to stop again after one hill and continued to ridicule him when he couldn't control his diarrhea and soiled his pants a few hills later.
“I got down to the bottom (of the hill), and Wardle told me I was a piece of s--- and that he had never seen such a big p---- in his life and that I was the biggest piece of s--- he had ever seen,” Bross told the Press-Gazette.
Bross said none of the coaches offered him a change of clothes or even a towel, instead driving him back to the Kress Events Center and having him walk through the building in front of 20 people in his soiled shorts. According to Bross, Wardle also ridiculed him about the incident, calling him "a piece of s---" about once a week the rest of the season.
Wardle declined comment on the specific allegations but issued a statement to the Press-Gazette calling the version of events above "inaccurate."
"I have fully cooperated with the independent investigator, as have our players and coaches," Wardle said. "I fully expect the eyewitnesses to these allegations you are reporting will contradict the version you are reporting."
It's difficult to know whose version of events players and other university staffers will support at this time because few are speaking publicly. A university spokesman declined a Yahoo! Sports request to speak with a current member of the team Tuesday about the accusations made by Bross, citing the ongoing investigation.
Forward Alec Brown and guard Keifer Sykes did speak out Tuesday in separate interviews with Green Bay radio station WNFL. Both players defended Wardle, insisting that the accusations against the coach are either being embellished or fabricated.
"Honestly, I don't agree with the things that are being said," Brown told WNFL. "I've been there the longest of any of the guys, and I feel like if I had personally seen any of this happening, I wouldn't still be here. A lot of this stuff is not happening the way it seems that it is.
"The way that some players viewed certain situations and like, the way they can lie about some things is just amazing because of some of these guys were really close to us, teammates, like brothers."
The comments from Brown reinforce that it's unfair to rush to judgment on Wardle's future at Wisconsin-Green Bay without further information. Investigators must first determine if other players confirm what Bross has alleged.
But if the accusations are true – if Wardle showered a player in homophobic slurs, ran him to the point of losing control of his bowels and ridiculed him for months about it afterward – that's the behavior of a bully who motivates with fear. It's not the behavior of a man who should be coaching anymore.
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