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University of North Carolina’s women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has resigned following an internal review that determined “the program needed to be taken in a new direction.”
"The University commissioned a review of our women's basketball program, which found issues that led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” read athletic director Bubba Cunningham’s statement. “It is in the best interests of our University and student-athletes for us to do so.”
Hatchell’s statement read in part, “It has been the great honor and privilege of my life to coach at the University of North Carolina. I want to thank John Swofford for giving me my dream job 33 years ago. The University will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Hatchell originally took a leave of absence in early April following “issues raised by student-athletes and others” which led to a review of the program.
She was accused of pressuring players to play through injuries as well as using racially insensitive language.
Hatchell made comments that were racially insensitive, and when confronted by players and staff did not respond in a timely or appropriate manner. The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist, but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them.
Players and medical staff expressed frustration with perceived and undue influence from Hatchell regarding medical issues and pressure to play. Despite Hatchell's questioning of player care, status and readiness, the medical staff did not surrender to pressure to clear players before they were medically ready.”
There has been a breakdown of connectivity between the players and Hatchell.
Parents allege insensitivity
At the time of Hatchell’s leave of absence, an in-depth report by the Washington Post detailed the comments made by Hatchell through anonymous interviews with six parents of student-athletes.
In one instance, Hatchell made reference to a “noose” after a 85-63 win over Howard, a historically black university. “When you go to Louisville, if you perform like you did tonight, they’re going to have nooses outside the arena, and they’re going to hang you by your necks from trees,” one parent told The Post of Hatchell’s alleged statement.
A differing account had Hatchell saying, “We’re going up to Louisville, those people are going to be waiting with nooses to hang you from trees.”
Several other accounts detail instances in which players were expected to push through injury.
Hatchell began coaching at UNC in 1986 after a stint at Francis Marion University. Upon arriving to UNC, Hatchell quickly rose to prominence.
Under Hatchell, the Tar Heels won the 1994 NCAA championship. The win made Hatchell the first and only coach to lead teams to national titles at the AIAW, NAIA and NCAA levels.
In her 33 seasons at UNC, her teams made three Final Four appearances, 23 NCAA tournament appearances and won eight ACC tournament titles.
During this span, she was named ACC coach of the year three times and national coach of the year three times as well.
Hatchell was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 and later the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Across 44 seasons of collegiate coaching, Hatchell amassed a 1,023-405 record. Her 1,000th victory made her just the third woman to reach the feat.
In the concluding lines of her statement, Hatchell said that she will continue to support the university in a variety of ways, including raising money for the Lineberger Cancer Center among other projects.
“I will forever love the University of North Carolina. I am Sylvia Hatchell, and I am a Tar Heel."
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