Will Braun also contributed to this article.
In the week since the OGB released its investigation into claims of abuse against head coach Ken Murczek of the Wake Forest women’s volleyball team, new evidence has raised questions about the administration’s handling of student athletes’ complaints.
When asked for comment, President Nathan O. Hatch said he would be conducting another internal investigation into the allegations.
“My top priority is the wellbeing of all Wake Forest students,” Hatch said. “To that end, I am appointing a committee from the administration and faculty to review the ongoing treatment of players on the Wake Forest volleyball team. This review is being done with full support of the athletics department. It is my intent that the current review is completed as soon as possible and I plan to share publicly the outcome.”
Recordings of phone calls and conversations with various administrators and athletic department officials obtained by the OGB provide new insight into how the complaints by players against the coach were handled last year.
While Murczek was cleared of Title IX gender-based charges after a 2014 investigation, phone conversations with Tanya Jachimiak, the department’s coordinator, revealed a list of what she called “questionable behaviors” practiced by the coach.
These behaviors included repeated use of curse words and demeaning remarks directed towards players. Team members faced targeted beratement for actions ranging from playing poorly on the court to keeping unapproved foods like cookies on their person.
Jachimiak also said she recommended Murczek take sexual harassment and anger management training.
When asked by the OGB about the recommendation, the coach refused to comment, calling it a “personal matter.”
Elizabeth Eilender, a professional litigator who specializes in athletic abuse, told the OGB that cases surrounding abusive coaches are common but frequently overlooked.
“It’s a cancer on collegiate athletics,” she said. “Universities often do an investigation, but it can sometimes be a sham. Sometimes the coaches will interfere with the investigation under the guise of ‘protecting the players.’”
In recorded phone conversations, parents had brought similar concerns to Jachimiak.
When asked what additional action would be taken to address the behaviors outlined in the investigation, Jachimiak said the information would be forwarded to Penny Rue, Provost Rogan Kersh and President Hatch.
“I wanted to make sure that we brought in Human Resources, so that this doesn’t just go back to Athletics for them to just do what they want,” she said in the phone call. “There are a lot of eyes on Athletics right now to address this problem. This is not something that is being taken lightly.”
In a statement, President Hatch told the OGB: “Complaints made by volleyball players and parents in 2014 were immediately investigated. In early 2015, a decision was made that the Athletics Department develop a plan, which it shared with players and parents, to address concerns.”
But players said that little was accomplished following the investigation.
“The administration basically just said that they would help him [Murczek] change, but it was all crap,” said one former player who declined to go on the record for personal reasons. “He tried to change but then just stopped coaching us because he was holding himself back from lashing out. He would literally say nothing for games at a time because he was afraid to lash out.”
In his statement, President Hatch did not address why he refused to meet with parents of the team about the investigation last year after repeated requests.
Players also shared with the OGB physical copies of a packet that the athletic department handed out while HBO investigated complaints of abuse on the team in 2014. The packet included an article from 2002 describing a man who posed as a journalist to physically assault and rape female athletes.
Team members say the article was distributed to discourage them from speaking to the media.
“I didn’t think much of it at the time,” said one former player who requested anonymity. “It wasn’t until my parents started asking questions that I realized how big of a deal it was.”
Since last week’s issue of the OGB, the investigation has sparked a strong response from students, faculty and alumni.
“Every member of our community deserves to be treated with respect and dignity,” Student Body President Adam Hammer told the OGB. “If abuse is, indeed, occurring, it is imperative that swift action is taken to identify and remove any individuals contributing to the harm, regardless of their position within the university.”
In light of President Hatch’s call for another internal investigation into the volleyball team, players and parents expressed their skepticism. Some called for the hiring of an independent organization to look into the team.
“An internal investigation will be pointless,” said one parent of a senior player, who requested to remain anonymous to protect his daughter’s identity. “We’ll end up in the same place as before.”