It’s always better to quit before you get fired. But Quentin Hillsman shouldn’t have been allowed that opportunity.
If the athletic department and the powers that be at Syracuse University would have learned anything from the Bernie Fine scandal, then the school would have rid the women’s basketball program of Hillsman back in April — when 11 players entered the transfer portal. In total, twelve players left the program after last season.
Newsflash: When an entire roster wants out, something is wrong.
“We’ve got a lot going on,” Hillsman said at the time. “The main thing for us is we’re in a good place and we’re not in a panic mode.”
Almost four months after Hillsman made that comment, he’s finally gone, resigning on Monday amid an investigation into alleged misconduct, according to a report from Syracuse.com. One of his former staffers — Ronnie Enoch — is also out.
In June, The Athletic dropped a bombshell report that shed light on the alleged abuse that players were suffering under Hillsman and Enoch. According to the report, Hillsman allegedly bullied players, denied them water during practice, allowed Enoch to make players feel uncomfortable with his conduct — after being put on paid leave at a previous job for making players feel uncomfortable (Enoch denied those accusations at the time) — kissed players on the forehead, touched a player inappropriately by placing his hands near her pelvic region from behind, and told players he’d “f*ck them up” and said, “I don’t give a f*ck about you.”
The Athletic also reported that “three (players) said they experienced suicidal thoughts due to their experiences in the program, and a fourth said she experienced thoughts of self-harm. Five said they received therapy; two of those women were prescribed antidepressants.”
This report came out in June. Just a few weeks ago, Hillsman was still attending player workouts.
The Athletic released a follow-up report on Tuesday. It featured an email from one of Hillsman’s former players.
“I am writing this email to inform you that I was also emotionally abused by Hillsman during my career … and I recognize many of the things the recent members of the team are describing in the articles (as) very similar to how Hillsman treated me and some other members of the team. If my exit interview was completely ignored 11 years ago, at least I am happy that times have changed, abuse is no longer tolerated and Syracuse is finally on its way of fixing a very sick, twisted and toxic program.”
The ability for adults to look away and turn a blind eye to this type of behavior feels familiar for Syracuse, as it’s the same thing that happened with Fine. In 2011, the longtime men’s basketball assistant coach was fired after allegations that he sexually molested three boys. Fine denied the allegations and federal prosecutors decided against filing charges against him. After defending the man that had been by his side for 35 years, head men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim eventually supported the firing of Fine, but only after he initially called one of the accusers a “liar.”
“I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse,” he said.
But, wait, there’s more.
The scandal took a murky turn when some of Fine’s accusers recanted their stories. However, Fine’s wife, Laurie, was caught on tape in 2002 suggesting she was aware of her husband’s behavior.
“I know everything that went on, you know. I know everything that went on with him,” she said. “Bernie has issues, maybe that he’s not aware of, but he has issues ... And you trusted somebody you shouldn’t have trusted.” (Laurie Fine confirmed portions of the tape were accurate but also suggested the tape was phony.)
Again, despite the drama, charges were never filed against Fine.
However, Laurie Fine was also accused in an affidavit filed in a suit against Boeheim of having sexual relationships with players from the men’s basketball team.
“If Laurie Fine was having multiple sexual relationships with basketball players, then the university must explain how this could have been taking place for years right under Coach Boeheim’s nose without his being aware of it and without the university’s doing anything about it,” wrote attorney Gloria Allred in 2012. A lawyer for the Fines denied the allegations and the suit against Boeheim was ultimately dismissed.
This is what has been allowed to happen — willingly or unwillingly — within the basketball programs at Syracuse University for decades. And in a post-MeToo era, you would think that Quentin Hillsman would have been immediately fired given the times we’re living in, especially considering the Bernie and Laurie Fine scandals. But he wasn’t, because for years the voices of women were ignored until two female journalists reported a story that will hopefully get the university to clean up its act.
But, even then, why would parents have faith in sending their child to play basketball there in hopes that they would be valued, appreciated, and listened to. Because if I’m questioning the school as an alum, then you should also have major concerns.