A former sports medicine intern in the UC Berkeley Athletic Department named Paige Cornelius has accused Cal football coaches and players of sexual harassment, in a public Facebook post written on Wednesday.
Cornelius, whose post can be read in full here, first tells of a “member of the Cal Football Coaching Staff” who said to her, “I will get you fired if you do not have sex with me,” at a practice after sending her persistent texts. Cornelius told ESPN that this man was a volunteer assistant. Here’s what she says about him in her post:
Another day, another coach found my Instagram, and liked all the pictures where I was wearing a bathing suit, even from years past. A player had given him my name, snapchat, and basically all forms of contact. When I did not reply to his messages, he would try to humiliate me in front of the players, yelling at me to do a job I was already doing. He would get especially upset when a player would talk to me, like he had formed some sort of territory over me.
This coach was so persistent in his text messages, and one night invited me over to the stadium offices at midnight, because I had noted that I was struggling with an economics class he had taken at another college. I was under the influence, and not legally in a state of mind to be consenting to sex. He snuck me into his office, I put my backpack and binder down, and he immediately grabbed for my waist. I was terrified, my mind was fuzzy, and I do not remember much from that night. He kept kissing me, pushing me against the wall, and I left.
The next day, he cornered me at practice and said “if you do not have sex with me, I will get you fired.” I am a broke college student, I couldn’t lose this job, and I was scared of him. Every night before a Cal home game, the team stays in the Claremont, luxury hotel nearby. I was staying there with my mom that night, as she was visiting me for the weekend. I get a text from the coach. “Meet me in my room.” I couldn’t let my mom down, if I got fired she wouldn’t be able to support me, so I said I was leaving for the night. When I got to his room, I was scared, so I just laid on the bed and tried to make small talk. He started taking his clothes off. I started crying uncontrollably. He yelled at me to get out of him room, and that he could fuck any girl he wanted.
ESPN says that this man is no longer with the program, but they could not confirm when or why he left.
However, Cornelius emphasizes, another unnamed coach who harassed her is still with the program. Here’s her description of his actions:
(He) would corner me in the tunnel entrance to field, asking me deeply personal questions, like if I had a boyfriend and what my “type” is. He would not leave me alone at practice, following me around to each drill, making remarks on how I looked that day. To no surprise, he found me on Instagram, and starting messaging me, for which then I blocked him. One day after practice, I realized he was following me home, as he was supposed to be going in the opposite direction, but was keeping a close pace behind me before he caught up to me outside my front door. He asked me what I was doing that weekend, and that we should go to the pool, because “I would look amazing in a bikini.”
Cornelius also says that she was on the receiving end of inappropriate remarks and creepy DMs from Cal players, specifically singling out wide receiver Jordan Duncan for a message that said “I’m going to treat you like the hoe that you are” after she told him to leave her alone. She also describes this harrowing experience at a party:
One night, I was invited over to a football house, where I was given vast amounts of tequila, to which I later realized, no one else was drinking that much. That night is also a little fuzzy, but i clearly remember the players talking to another saying “looks like we are gonna get lucky tonight.” Thankfully my friends rescued me from the house, calling me an Uber. I slipped out the back door unnoticed.
Cornelius, who has medically withdrawn from the school and is seeking therapy, told ESPN that she had reached out to Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, and AD Jim Knowlton, among others in the program, and they had not responded to her. That was part of the reason why she decided to go public with her story.
Last year, Cal fired longtime athletic department employee Mohamed Muqtar, after a months-long investigation into a pattern of sexual harassment and assault first made public by WNBA player Layshia Clarendon. They had this to say in a statement when ESPN contacted them:
“We are aware of the very disturbing public allegations made on social media. Allegations of sexual violence and sexual harassment by campus employees are confidential unless officials determine policy is violated, and disciplinary action has been decided.”