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UC Berkeley swimmers walk out on coach after reports of verbal abuse

Cal swim coach Teri McKeever, shown at the 2019 NCAA championships, has been accused of fostering a toxic culture within the program. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Members of the University of California Berkeley women’s swim team walked out of a Wednesday practice after a meeting with coach Teri McKeever, the Orange County Register reported.

McKeever has been accused by more than 20 current and former Cal swimmers of creating a toxic environment within the program. Allegations leveled against McKeever include verbal and emotional abuse and bullying.

“You live in constant dread because of Teri,” former Cal swimmer Chloe Clark told the Register.

Cal swimmers showed up Wednesday for a team meeting in the aftermath of the Register’s initial report. Upon their arrival, McKeever asked if they were “ready to swim,” at which point a majority of swimmers walked out, the Register reported.

McKeever, 60, served as the U.S. women’s team head coach during the 2012 Olympics, and she has led Cal to six Pac-12 swim championships and four NCAA titles in her 29 seasons with the Golden Bears.

Inside the team, though, swimmers struggled under the coach’s leadership. At least six Cal women’s swimmers since 2018 have made plans to kill themselves or dealt with weeks of suicidal ideation “because of what they describe as McKeever’s bullying,” the Register reported.

The Cal athletic department released a statement Tuesday in the wake of the Register’s initial report.

“The allegations described are serious and deeply disturbing in that they describe behavior antithetical to our values and policies,” the statement read. “We are now, as always, encouraging current and former students to report behaviors and incidents that run counter to our policies and our values. We are now, as always, encouraging current and former students who may have been impacted to seek out support and assistance. We stand ready to help students in need connect with the appropriate campus resources and offices that offer support, guidance and assistance.

“Unfortunately, due to stringent laws and policies protecting personnel issues and privacy, we are unable to address these allegations.”

Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton and other members of the department have scheduled a meeting with the swimmers later Wednesday, the Register reported.