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Cal swimmers urge university to ‘stop the abuse’ amid coach investigation

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)

A group of 31 current and former Cal swimmers and 22 parents of swimmers sent a letter to the University of California, Berkeley chancellor and other university leaders last Wednesday calling on them to address the “toxic culture” within the program.

Teri McKeever, the coach of the women’s team, has been accused by Golden Bears swimmers of verbal and emotional abuse and bullying. The allegations first came to light in a bombshell report from the Orange County Register in May.

McKeever was placed on administrative leave in the aftermath of the report, and an investigation is ongoing.

“For us former swimmers, the consequences of McKeever’s coaching, the culture of fear and intimidation on the team, and the athletic department’s disappointing failure to protect its student-athletes have unfortunately followed us into adulthood,” reads the letter, as obtained by Just Women’s Sports. The letter also notes that in addition to the reports already made public, “many more stories” have not been shared.

The letter was sent via email to Carol Christ, the chancellor of UC Berkeley; Michael Drake, the president of the University of California system; Rich Leib, vice chair of the University of California board of regents; and other university leaders.

Swimmers who signed the letter include two-time NCAA champion Cindy Tran, NCAA finalist and two-time Big 12 champion Lindsey King, four-time world championship qualifier Sophia Batchelor and more. The swimmers’ careers with Cal ranged from 1990 to 2020.

Six swimmers who signed the letter chose not to give their names to the media, but they include an Olympic medalist, former team captains, NCAA champions and All-Americans. Per the letter, 15 other swimmers supported the message but chose to remain anonymous from the university leaders as well.

“In the weeks since the news broke, many of us have found solidarity and comfort in reconnecting with former teammates, supporting one another, and rebuilding the bonds that were broken by our isolating and traumatizing experiences at Cal,” the letter reads.

The swimmers and the parents who signed the letter pressed university leaders to protect the athletes still within the program.

“We expect you now to not let history repeat itself and urgently call on you to stop the abuse that continues with each new class,” they wrote. “As program alumnae, it is an understatement to say that we are very concerned that a toxic culture in the swimming program continues to reward coaches, protect predators, and safeguard those who use outdated and trauma-inducing tactics.”

Since 2018, at least six Cal women’s swimmers said they had made plans to kill themselves or dealt with weeks of suicidal ideation because of “what they describe as McKeever’s bullying,” the OC Register reported.

One swimmer penned an anonymous first-person essay for Sports Illustrated, affirming the abuse allegations and describing her own experiences.

In the wake of the allegations, Cal commissioned an independent investigation conducted by the law firm of Munger, Tolles and Olson. McKeever also is being investigated by the university’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination and by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Dan Mogulof, an assistant vice chancellor at UC Berkeley, told Just Women’s Sports in a statement Saturday that the university would respond to the swimmers directly.

Katherine McAdoo, a former Cal swimmer who helped coordinate the letter, told Just Women’s Sports that those who sent the letter received a response from the university over the weekend. The group is currently meeting to discuss next steps.

Mogulof also said that the university is “acutely aware” that it has work to do in building and creating a culture that “provides an authentic sense of belonging, safety, respect and inclusion.”

The university is also implementing a new Presidential Policy on Abusive Conduct in the Workplace, “which will cover abusive conduct and retaliation in the workplace, including behavior by coaches,” Mogulof wrote.

As for the swim program, the women’s and men’s teams have been training together ahead of the upcoming NCAA season. Former men’s head coach Dave Durden will serve as acting director of both programs, and David Marsh will step in as associate head coach of the women’s program.

“The top priority for the coaching staff will be to create and maintain a positive environment and culture that will help support the swimmers’ aspirations and well-being in the pool, in their classes, in their lives beyond the campus,” Mogulof wrote.

The office of the University of California system president said in a statement to Just Women’s Sports that President Drake “is aware of the concerning allegations reported by our student athletes and supports the investigation currently underway.”

McKeever previously has declined to comment on the situation. Her attorney, Thomas Newkirk, has said that she is the victim of a double standard with respect to how male and female coaches are viewed and judged.

As head coach of the Cal women’s team since 1993, McKeever has led the Golden Bears to five Pac-12 titles and four NCAA championships. She has also served as a U.S. women’s swim coach for four Olympic Games, including as head coach in London in 2012, and has helped produce 26 Olympians from Cal who have gone on to win 36 medals.

Emma Hruby is an Associate Editor at Just Women’s Sports.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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