- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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On April 16, Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle was the subject of a formal complaint sent to the university chancellor by the parent of a basketball player. Gina Cougill, mother of senior forward Brennan Cougill, wrote a scathing letter to chancellor Thomas Harden accusing Wardle of "bullying most of the players," including her son, whom Gina Cougill said suffered from depression. She accused Wardle of dismissing depression as a "distraction."
It was news, bad news -- the school barely had time to open an internal investigation before a copy of the letter was shared with the Green Bay Press-Gazette -- but the Cougills weren't even the first family to accuse Wardle of mistreatment. In fact, the parents of former center Ryan Bross were the first to file a complaint with Harden's office. Their complaint wasn't made public, though, so whatever damage it could wreak on Wardle's reputation, if the allegations are true, for the moment was deferred.
That moment is over. Today, Bross made his own complaints public to the Press-Gazette's Rob Demovsky, and they aren't pretty -- literally or figuratively. They include allegations that Wardle used anti-gay and other derogatory slurs; told Bross to have sex with a girl to improve his performance; and ugliest of all, this story about a preseason workout drill known as "boot camp":
"Coach Wardle told me to stop being a p---- and to go into the woods," Bross told the Press-Gazette. "So I went into the woods and took a crap. I came back and he was like, 'Are you all done? Are you OK? Are you done being a p---- now, Ryan?' because they thought I was faking it, but I wasn't. So I kept running the hills. I finished one hill. I came back down, and I told them I was not feeling well again, and (Wardle) made me run another hill again because he told me that I was being a baby and that I was letting down the team and I was letting down myself, and that I was letting down everyone."
Bross continued: "I got down to the bottom (of the hill), and Wardle told me I was a piece of s--- and that he had never seen such a big p---- in his life and that I was the biggest piece of s--- he had ever seen."
It is important to note that Wardle issued a statement to the Press-Gazette, calling the version of the events in the newspaper "inaccurate":
"I can assure you the well-being of my players is foremost in my mind at all times," he said. "I cannot comment on the specific allegations under federal privacy laws. I can say the version of events [the Press-Gazette is] reporting is inaccurate. I have fully cooperated with the Independent Investigator, as have our players and coaches. I fully expect the eyewitnesses to these allegations you are reporting will contradict the version you are reporting."
It is also worth noting again that these are all merely allegations, and it is now the job of Harden and his independent investigator to get to the bottom of them. We don't know what is true in the complaints filed by Cougill and Bross.
But we do know this: Former Rutgers coach Mike Rice changed the game. For coaches and administrators everywhere, there is now zero room for lapses in oversight, no forgiveness from the public for physical and verbal abuse. There's even a tendency -- if not an outright willingness -- to react on behalf of players being treated poorly by an overzealous coach. Whether any of this new paradigm will apply to Wardle and Wisconsin-Green Bay remains to be seen, but the stakes are high.