A university investigation conducted three years ago found evidence that Colorado State men’s basketball coach Larry Eustachy verbally and emotionally abused his players, and created a culture of fear and intimidation. The investigators recommended that Eustachy should be fired, a move the school president declined to make.
The investigation, conducted during the 2013-14 season, interviewed 14 players and athletic department staffers. The full investigation, obtained by the Coloradoan via an open records request, is available at the paper’s website.
It was co-led by former athletic director Jack Graham, who told the Coloradoan that university president Tony Frank overruled the investigators’ recommendation to fire Eustachy.
“I believed Eustachy should be terminated and believed we had the basis to terminate for cause,” Graham, who hired Eustachy in 2012, said when reached for comment. “I was advised by Tony Frank that we did not have the basis to terminate for cause and that Eustachy was to be placed on a personal improvement plan.”
In the end, Eustachy was required to apologize to his team and to attend six anger management sessions.
The details uncovered by the investigation don’t rise to the level of Mike Rice, the former Rutgers coach who resigned the previous season after video emerged of him physically abusing his players. Eustachy is not accused of touching Rams players.
In a summary of the investigation, Eustachy acknowledged he has told his assistant coaches to “shut the fuck up” and called players “fucking cunts.” He also said he “crossed the line” and later said he went “way over the line” when questioned about whether the atmosphere in his program was one of fear and intimidation.
The CSU investigation documents the coach’s outbursts, including punching and breaking dry erase boards in locker rooms and throwing unopened soda cans against walls.
“(Players) were not able to advocate for themselves without having retribution,” Wightman said. “Players need to be able to advocate for themselves. They’re not allowed to do that in Larry’s program. I have witnessed that.”
Wightman said coaches who resort to personal attacks are crossing a line and when a coach is critical for reasons other than for athletic performance, it constitutes emotional abuse.
“If you dropped a camera inside the basketball program at CSU, you’d see Rutgers,” said a mental health services employee for student-athletes at CSU who was interviewed during the investigation. He called Eustachy a “rage-aholic.”
The year before the investigation, Colorado State stopped recording audio of practices. (One former player told the Coloradoan, “if we recorded audio, Eustachy would have been fired a long time ago.”) During the investigation, Eustachy closed practices to the media.
On Feb. 20, 2014, the athletic department informed Eustachy that he was no longer allowed to be alone with players, and that the AD or an associate AD must be present at practices, team meetings, and in the locker room during games.
Five former players and four people close to the program told the Coloradoan they were emotionally abused by Eustachy. It’s not clear if any or all of them were among those interviewed by the university.
In Eustachy’s five years with the Rams, only one player who signed as a freshman completed four years with the team. Seven scholarship players, including five starters, have transferred under Eustachy’s tenure, and two of the three assistant coaches he brought with him left the program for less prestigious jobs.
Yet not only did CSU not fire Eustachy, but it has given him three separate one-year contract extensions since the conclusion of the investigation. His contract now runs through 2021.
Eustachy is probably best known for his resignation as Iowa State coach in 2003 after the emergence of reports of him attending student parties, and photos of him drinking and kissing young women. At the time, Eustachy admitted he had started rehab treatment for alcoholism.
In a statement, Eustachy says he’s taken the lessons of CSU’s investigation to heart.
“The program review that took place three years ago made me a better husband, father and coach and allowed me to reflect on the kind of man I wanted to be,” Eustachy said. “I’m extremely proud to be Colorado State’s head basketball coach and appreciate all those who have stood by me over the years, particularly my family, our players, fans and the CSU administration.”