Ex-player says coach ignored pleas
The situation surrounding claims of abuse against Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle escalated Tuesday when former walk-on Ryan Bross discussed his allegations publicly for the first time.
Bross detailed the accusations against Wardle during an interview with the Green Bay Press Gazette, saying Wardle's negligence had forced him to defecate on himself and that the coach told him having sex with a woman would make him a better player.
Earlier this month, Bross and another former player, Brennan Cougill, accused the coach of abuse. The school subsequently launched an investigation, being led by local attorney Joseph Nicks.
Through a letter written by Cougill's mother, released to the Press Gazette two weeks ago, Cougill alleged Wardle had bullied and abused him verbally, while also disregarding his bouts with depression.
In his conversation with the Press Gazette, Bross alleged that Wardle had abused him, too.
He said Wardle had used homophobic slurs against him and encouraged him to violate his religious beliefs by bringing "[a girl] in and [if] I had sex with her, that I would be playing better."
His most gruesome allegations stem from the events of a preseason workout drill known as "boot camp."
Bross said Wardle ignored his pleas for a break after he'd begun to feel sick, which eventually resulted in the former player losing control of his bowels.
"Coach Wardle told me to stop being a p---- and to go into the woods," Bross told the Press Gazette, adding that he went in the woods and defecated. "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."
Through a statement initially released to the paper and submitted to ESPN.com on Tuesday, Wardle denied the allegations against him.
"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."
Green Bay forward Alec Brown told local radio station WNFL he was "very surprised" by the allegations, which he refuted.
"Honestly, I don't agree with the things that are being said," Brown said. "I've been there the longest of any of the guys, and I feel like if I had personally seen any of this happening, I wouldn't still be here. A lot of this stuff is not happening the way it seems that it is."
When asked whether he thinks his teammates are lying, Brown responded: "Yeah, I believe so."
School spokesman Christopher Sampson said Nicks will be wrapping up interviews this week and that his report could be turned in as early as next week.
"The allegations that came to the university were serious enough that we looked to hire an independent investigator to do a review,'' Sampson said. "The fact that it has gotten national media attention -- that's a fallout of the Rutgers case. The two families and the players involved contacted the chancellor of the university, and he was obligated to respond right away. He said right away that it wasn't going to be the university but going to send it to the local attorney who is handling the investigation. That's what he did. Joseph Nicks has no ties to the university. He has never been directly involved in the university athletic program or any of the people he might have to interview.''
Sampson said he didn't know of any video tapes requested on the case. He said local newspapers requested through the Freedom of Information Act the two letters written by the parents to chancellor Thomas Harden, but the requests were rejected based on the Buckley Amendment dealing with student-privacy laws.
"We want to get this resolved as soon as we can and clear the air, but we want to do it right and take the time,'' Sampson said.
Sampson said Wardle has only one restriction during the investigation.
"He is not allowed to talk to the current or former players about the investigation,'' Sampson said. "He's still the coach while the investigation is going on. He is still the coach and conducting offseason workouts with the returning players and recruiting.''
We want to get this resolved as soon as we can and clear the air, but we want to do it right and take the time.” -- Wisconsin-Green Bay spokesman Christopher Sampson,
on the school's investigation
Sampson said Harden briefed the Wisconsin state system chancellor Kevin Reilly about the investigation but UWGB will handle any personnel matters. Sampson said when the report is returned by Nicks it will go to Harden and then he will determine if it is something he deals with or passes it on to athletic director Ken Bothof.
"The one thing that keeps coming up with the fans of the program and the fans of coach Wardle is that they want the chancellor and Ken Bothof to make a statement in regards to the investigation,'' Sampson said. "But our administration has been pretty adamant, that regardless of the Rutgers thing, when the chancellor got those letters from the parents, the best way to handle this was by an outside investigation. The Rutgers fallout for us is how the story went viral, getting national publicity based on the allegation of one redshirt freshman. We needed to be serious in the way we responded to it.''
Concerns of abuse in college athletics were magnified earlier this month when Rutgers fired coach Mike Rice after the release of a video that showed the coach engaging in various acts of mistreatment, such as throwing basketballs at players and using homophobic slurs.
Horizon League commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the Rice situation has enhanced concerns about similar allegations at institutions throughout the country. But he said the league will wait to comment on Wardle's situation until the university completes its investigation.
"Well, I think what we all worry about right now nationally are some of the headlines you see out there in college athletics," he said. "The concern is only heightened when you know what the facts are. And at this point, I don't know if anyone knows what the facts are."
Bross is one of four players who have opted to leave the Wisconsin-Green Bay program since the beginning of the year.
But they did not all leave for the same reasons, according to South Suburban junior college coach John Pigatti. Pigatti coached former UW-Green Bay guard Sultan Muhammad, who was recently granted his release from the program.
Pigatti told ESPN.com on Tuesday that Muhammad did not leave due to turmoil within the program. He said he transferred because of a family issue.
Pigatti also said that he attended multiple practice sessions while Muhammad was at Green Bay and never saw or heard anything negative.
"I actually watched several practices and never once did I actually see anything that would have had anything to do with what's happening with Brian or the coaching staff at all," Pigatti said. "I've never heard anything from Sultan. All I heard were great things. ... There was no Mike Rice thing or anything else. It was all, everything was normal. There was nothing there that would lead me to believe that anything was happening."
Information from ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan and Andy Katz was used in this report.
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