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:
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