Cal swimmers question direction, independence of coach investigation

Cal women's swimming coach Teri McKeever is under investigation over allegations of abuse. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

A group of current and former Cal swimmers and parents of swimmers are concerned about the direction and independence of an investigation into abuse allegations against Teri McKeever, the coach of the women’s team.

The four-time NCAA champion coach has been accused by Golden Bears swimmers of verbal and emotional abuse and bullying during her 29-year career at UC Berkeley. The allegations first came to light in a bombshell report from the Orange County Register in May.

In the wake of the allegations, Cal placed McKeever on administrative leave and commissioned an independent investigation, which is being conducted by the law firm of Munger, Tolles and Olson. McKeever, 60, has been interviewed multiple times by four attorneys as part of the university-sponsored investigation, the OC Register reported.

Yet multiple current and former swimmers have questioned the attorneys hired for the investigation. Brad Brian, who holds the top position at Munger, Tolles and Olson, is a leading fundraiser for the Cal athletic department.

“I had nothing to do with our firm being hired to investigate the allegations against Coach McKeever, have played no role whatsoever in that investigation, and haven’t discussed the investigation with anyone at Cal,” Brian said in a statement.

Swimmers also have criticized what they perceive as the narrow focus of the investigation on McKeever. Investigators have not asked swimmers about senior executive associate athletic director Jennifer Simon-O’Neill or athletic director Jim Knowlton, who swimmers say enabled McKeever’s behavior, per the OC Register.

A former Cal administration official told the OC Register that top officials within the athletic department knew of McKeever’s alleged behavior “for years.”

On Aug. 31, a group of 31 swimmers and 22 parents of swimmers sent a letter to the UC Berkeley chancellor and other university leaders. In the letter, they address concerns with the investigation.

“Our experience has shown that widespread university leadership has failed to take action on our concerns,” the letter reads. “Beyond the athletic department, which university departments are included in the investigation? Who is responsible for leading a university-wide shift in culture toward protecting student athletes?”

Dan Mogulof, an assistant vice chancellor at UC Berkeley, told Just Women’s Sports in a statement that the athletic department has “provided the investigators with complete authority to conduct an impartial investigation to ensure they can follow any and all relevant information.”

“We have a very strong institutional interest in knowing if and when our policies and values are violated, and we will not hesitate to impose appropriate consequences when warranted,” he said in the statement. “The campus has directed the investigators to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the allegations regarding Coach McKeever that have been presented to them. At the same time, we do understand that the time required for a thorough and fair investigation has been the source of frustration.

“However, it would only undermine the purpose, legitimacy, and utility of the investigation were the campus to step in and bring it to a halt before the investigators’ work is completed. We are unable to comment on any other aspect of the investigation beyond what we have shared to date.”

In addition to the investigation by 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.