UWM mens soccer coach fired after university investigation
Posted on 02 April 2012. Tags: athletics, Christopher Whalley, panthers, Soccer, Sports, uwm
By Callie Koller
Christopher Whalley was dismissed from his position as UW-Milwaukee mens head soccer coach after a three-week internal investigation by the university into allegations of misconduct and player mistreatment.
The decision was announced by the university via email on March 23. The campus-wide email included a statement from Chancellor Michael Lovell reassuring both players and fans that mens soccer will continue to be a premier sport that the community can be proud of.
We have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that our student athletes are treated with dignity and respect at all times, Lovell said via email. Our coaches must be held to the highest standards, because they are role models for our students and they represent the university both on and off the playing field. Going forward, we will take steps to ensure that members of our mens soccer team train and compete in a positive environment that promotes good sportsmanship and scholastic excellence.
Whalley was put on administrative leave March 1, along with assistant coach Benjamin Shepherd, who will remain as UWMs assistant soccer coach.
Vice Chancellor for University Relations Tom Luljak would not comment on the details of the review, but the investigations followed shortly after former player and current assistant volunteer for the team Martin Castro sent an email to alumni accusing Whalley of inappropriate behavior and encouraging them to voice those concerns to Chancellor Lovell.
In the email, sent out on Feb. 23, Castro detailed claims made by players that the coach was verbally abusive and made racially insensitive remarks about players both on the team and on opposing teams.
I never want to bring up a hard issue, but at times hard issues have to be brought up, Castro said. When it first came to my attention that things needed to be addressed, they needed to be addressed. Its not an issue between myself and the administration, its not an issue between myself and the university.
Castro said there have been player concerns regarding Whalley since he first became head coach in 2010, but because the transition to a new coach often takes a period of adjustment for any team, he was given the benefit of the doubt.
There were issues from the beginning about his coaching style, Castro said, but obviously everyone is optimistic and hoping for the best.
However concerns over Whalleys behavior remained, and in November 2011, players completed a survey regarding their thoughts and feelings as a member of the team.
Unfavorable responses moved administration to approach Whalley to address these concerns, but took no further action and led to Castros decision to notify alumni.
When you take the role of a coach, you are a role model on all aspects, Castro said. Its your responsibility, its your duty, and its your job. Anything you say or do will affect your players, you constantly need to be held to a very high standard. What the university decided to do with dismissing him speaks for itself.
Shepherd was reinstated after the investigations and is currently in charge of the program until a new coach is found. Despite the controversy, Shepherd said he plans to maintain his position as part of the team.
Shepherd said via email, I am happy here at UWM and committed to the continued improvement of the mens soccer program, and I look forward to supporting the new coach once hired.
Luljak said that the investigations regarding the mens soccer program are over and the situation has been resolved.
The responsibility of hiring a new head coach now lies on the shoulders of Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Laliberte and Athletic Director Richard Costello who are leading the nationwide search.
How long that search will take, however, is any ones guess.
At this point we do not have a time table for hiring a new coach, Luljak said. We believe that it will be a very attractive position and are very optimistic that we will end up with a terrific coach who will be a role model and leader for our student athletes.
Castro said that the dismissal of Whalley has had a positive effect on the team.
I spoke to some of [the players] and theyre just relieved its over and that they can move forward as a team and find out whats in store for them next.