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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A UNC Wilmington women’s basketball player endured an extreme form of punishment this week under the supervision of an assistant coach.

Technically, practice at UNCW has not started yet, but the players are required to attend individual workout drills. Monday’s workout session apparently went a bit too far for one player.

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, a Basketball Hall of Famer, was named head women’s coach at UNCW May 10. It’s been smooth sailing until this week when Seahawk guard Julia Finlay was forced to logroll non-stop the length of the basketball court at Trask Coliseum. Finlay threw up three times during the workout drill. Coach Cooper-Dyke was out of town during Monday’s workout, but assistant coach Johnetta Hayes was present.

WWAY has made multiple requests to interview Cooper, Hayes, Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo, Finlay and Athletics Director Kelly Mehrtens. The athletic department denied all those requests.

Mehrtens released a statement Tuesday night that admits a serious error in judgment was made by a member of the women’s coaching staff in regard to a rolling drill.

Coincidentally we talked with Finlay the day Cooper-Dyke was hired.

“I was just so happy,” Finlay said May 10. “She’s been my idol. I watched her when I was growing up. She’s my mom’s favorite player. I knew so much about her, so I was so excited.”

In her statement Mehrtens added the rolling drills will not be tolerated, and she hopes everyone will give the new staff the opportunity to move forward.

Jim Dallke is the editor & chief of “The Seahawk”. That’s the student newspaper on campus. WWAY’s John Rendleman talked with Jim on Wednesday.

Jim Dallke told John ” It’s frustrating. I think Seahawk fans and Seahawk students are looking for something to cheer for”. Dallke says there’s been more negative media attention since the hiring of two high-profile coaches (Cythina Cooper-Dyke and Buzz Peterson)than expected. In the men’s program there have been multiple departures and academica eligibility issues.

“Another incident like this is discouraging to Seahawk students,” Dallke said. “I’m sure Cynthia Cooper didn’t want to start out at UNCW like this. You may remember she had some recruiting violations when she coached at Texas A&M Prarie View and now we’re talking about something that involves the endangerment of a student athlete. This is definitely discouraging for UNCW athletics.”

” Is this something that will catch the attention of the NCAA?,” asked Rendleman.

” We’ll see, sometimes something like this is not a terrible thing with the NCAA because that’s how we correct our problems and that’s how we get things fixed. It’ll be interesting to see if the NCAA picks this up, but for the sake of UNCW athletics it’ll be better to keep this within the university.”

Rendleman added ” You and I both know official practice starts in October, but Kelly Mehrtens in her statement Tuesday night called the incident a basketball practice incident.”

” Right,” Dallke said. “Definitely when you’re the athletics director you have to be careful with your word choice. Using the word “practice” before October 15th is something that’s pretty iffy and definitely something that should be looked at by people within the university and we need to make sure they’re not doing full practices and that these are only workouts. It’s definitely a word choice Kelly Mehrtens, if she could, would probably take back.”

Mehrtens used the word “practice” when referring to Monday’s workout session. NCAA rules don’t allow actual practices until mid-October. Wednesday’s statement & Tuesday’s statement are both posted below:

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Statement from Kelly Mehrtens, UNCW Director of Athletics (released Wednesday 9-22-2010)

Dr. Sue Combs, our faculty athletics representative, and I have spent many hours today gathering additional information about the incident that occurred following Monday’s practice by the women’s basketball team. As mentioned previously, the drill in question will not be tolerated and will never happen again in our program.

The issue has been addressed with the employee and appropriate disciplinary action has been taken. Due to university policy and state law, I am unable to comment further.

Once again, we are very sorry that this happened. Coach Cooper-Dyke remains committed to having our program represent UNCW and the community in the best possible way, and we ask for your continued support of our student-athletes and teams.

#########

UNCW Athletics Director Kelly Mehrtens statement on practice punishment incident:(released Tuesday 9-21-2010)

“I asked Dr. Sue Combs, our faculty athletics representative, to work with me to gather information concerning an incident that occurred following Monday’s practice by the women’s basketball team. I have determined that a serious error in judgment was made by a member of our women’s basketball coaching staff with the implementation of a rolling drill.

“The well-being of our student-athletes is always first and foremost in our minds. I have spoken to the student-athlete involved with the incident and have assured her that this will never happen again.

“While Coach Cooper-Dyke was out of town recruiting and not present, she nevertheless regrets that this occurred and remains committed to running our program with the utmost character.

“We are very sorry that this happened. These types of drills will not be tolerated. I hope everyone will give our new staff the opportunity to move forward as we approach the new season.

“Dr. Combs has agreed to convene a group to determine any action steps necessary to make sure that this doesn’t happen again within our athletic program.”

Finlay averaged 2.3 points per game last year for the Seahawks.

Photo courtesy UNCW Athletics

Comment on this Story

  • SurfCityTom

    but what did the young lady do to merit the “punishment”?

    Now the AD took the fall, in part, because she referred to the incident as a “training camp” incident. NAACP regs allow individual player sessions prior to training camp. But “training camp” itself can not commence before 10/15.

    So just what did the young lady do? And if she had a leg injury, should she have been subject to individual player sessions or log rolling?

  • CM

    I can tell you one thing from having attended UNCW for my BA and MA, and from working for the school for many years: They will not tolerate this sort of abuse and there will be severe ramifications. The school is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to the public and the media (I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing) but trust me, behind the scenes, all hell is breaking loose. Say what you want about the administration at UNCW, but I can tell you from first hand experience that they put the students first and are very protective of them. As for those who would argue the girl should just “suck it up” I would like to point out that there is an immense difference between hard work and legitimate exercise on one hand and abuse and humiliation on the other.

  • Guestoo

    How about all of the folks that see nothing wrong with this type of “punishment” suck it up and get their arses to a basketball court? Don’t wear nice clothes, you’re going to be doing a little log-rolling! Please don’t eat too much beforehand though. Didn’t do anything wrong you say? Interesting, how can you blow off this type of “punishment” if you haven’t tried it? Oh, yeah. Make sure there are players on the court while you’re doing laps!

    There are far better ways to discipline someone, get the point across and not humiliate them than this. Perhaps the proper discipline for the assistant coach would be to do a little log-rolling herself? Maybe 45 minutes just to prove it isn’t so bad? Time it while the Bobcats are here too! How cool would that be?

  • Guest

    I think that the punishment this young athlete had to perfom was terrible. She is not in the arm forces, she is a junior basketball player, who was treated with disrespect.

    I think that the assistant coach should be fired, ASAP.

  • Guest

    “Due to university policy and state law, I am unable to comment further.”

    I would like to know specifically what university policy and specifically what state law prohibits this publicly paid person from specifically commenting on specifically what happened.

    This kind of response from public employees is getting out of hand.

  • Some People

    It’s amazing that this type of punishment is going on. To all those that think nothing was done wrong here are crazy especially the person comparing this to the Texas A&M issue with Craig. In that case the coach was fired without merit. This is totally different and it’s amazing that the assistant coach who gave this punishment is facing undisclosed disciplinary action.

    The AD’s main concern is the coaches with this type of punishment and not the student athlete who’s punishment was way over the line.

    It’s time for Kelly Mehrtens to be shown the door out of Wilmington. She should take the women’s head basketball coach along with the assistant coach.

    It’s crazy to see Mike Leach from Texas A&M get fired and to see this assistant get a slap on the wrist.

  • Guest

    This kind of crap is how you kill someone. My daughter was being recruited by UNCW for basketball before Coach Hancock was let go. The only way my kid plays for UNCW is if there is a coaching change. Discipline is one thing, but rolling up and down the court for 30 minutes. Why don’t you make her shoot free throws for 30 minutes. I don’t see much log rolling in basketball. If you have the ball that’s called traveling. Coach Cooper and her staff needs to go. All this run and gun style of ball, she says she’s going to play. It’s called undisciplined street ball. Plus, she had recruiting violations at her previous coaching stint. Another hiring blunder by UNCW.

  • Guest9999

    While the incident has not been properly identified to us, the general public and taxpayers pay for the facility, coach salary and perks the education of the player. There is a need to know. If this would have been a black player/white coach I can assure you that the NAACP would have been screaming for an open investigation and a firing!!

  • PatB

    I’m not defending how the coach handled this situation, but what does race have to do with this? Don’t you think we’re blowing this out of porportion?

  • PatB

    Give me a Break! You sound like a disgruntle parent that is upset because the coaches are not recruiting your daughter, because she can’t play a “run and gun style of basketball”. It’s obvious you don’t know a whole lot about basketball, because there are set plays that allow getting the ball up the court and scoring quickly. Is it “undisciplined street ball”, because these coaches are African-American? Was it “undisciplined street ball” when Benny Moss was trying to play a fast-paced bball game?

    Cynthia Cooper and her staff have the credentials, let them coach and send your daughter to ECU to play for Ann Hancock.

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