Fired Cal swim coach Teri McKeever admits to emotional misconduct

University of California at Berkeley women's swimming coach Teri McKeever answers questions during a media conference Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. Missy Franklin is downright giddy about her two seasons swimming collegiately for California, even if it meant the delay of big-money endorsement deals that will come in a matter of months as she turns pro and gears up for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Franklin will soon wrap up her sophomore season in Berkeley with the Pac-12 meet and NCAAs, then quickly turn her attention toward training for this summer's world championships in Russia and another Olympics after she captured four gold medals in her Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games when just 17. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Former UC Berkeley swim coach Teri McKeever has been suspended for three months for emotional misconduct by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Former California women’s swimming and diving coach Teri McKeever received a three-month suspension and was put on 12-month probation for “emotional misconduct” by the U.S. Center for SafeSport following an investigation into allegations that led to her dismissal by Cal this year.

Attorney Jon Little, who represented McKeever in the SafeSport matter, confirmed to The Times the length of the suspension and probation and that the longtime coach admitted to some of but not all of the alleged misconduct that took place between 2018 and 2022.

“What she admits to basically is that she cursed, screamed at kids and that she grabbed [Cal swimmer] Emily Gantriis’ arm,” Little told The Times by phone Friday morning, adding that McKeever is sorry for the incident involving Gantriis. “That’s the extent of her admissions.”

The Southern California News Group was the first to report McKeever’s suspension and portions of SafeSport’s confidential report .

Read more: Cal swim coach, accused of years of student-athlete abuse, is fired. She plans to sue

“I acknowledge that my expectations were exceedingly high, and that at times, my frustration with swimmers who weren’t coachable or did not believe in themselves or the team was not productive for the team,” McKeever said in a statement sent to The Times on Friday afternoon.

“I raised my voice, used profanity at times, and said things that could have been misinterpreted in the moment. And, on one occasion, I reached for an athlete’s arm to get her attention. I also recall that I apologized to the team and/or to individual swimmers when I felt I wasn’t behaving at my best. This was my attempt to be real and [a] role model taking responsibility for myself and my behavior. I was told that this was appreciated.

“However, recent developments paint a picture that my worst days are how I showed up every day, across every situation. This also isn’t taking into account that some athletes arrive on campus with preexisting physical and emotional issues. Certainly the stress of the transition and the pressure of the program along with the academics exaggerated what was already there, but I’m being characterized as the one and only cause of some athletes’ distress.”

A former All-American swimmer at USC, McKeever was hired by Cal in 1992 and coached the Golden Bears to four NCAA titles and five Pac-12 championships. She also coached the U.S. women’s swim team at the 2012 London Olympics. But she was placed on leave by Cal in May 2022 while the university commissioned an independent investigation into allegations made against the coach by former swimmers in a series of articles by the Orange County Register.

McKeever was fired nine months later after the investigation determined the coach was demeaning toward student-athletes in her program, discriminating against swimmers based on race or disabilities and using abusive language.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete,” McKeever said in a statement at the time, “and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation.”

Read more: Do you call it Cal or Berkeley? UC school may rebrand to Cal Berkeley for sports

SafeSport announced McKeever’s suspension for emotional misconduct on its centralized disciplinary database this week, with few additional details . A spokesperson for the center told The Times via email that SafeSport doesn’t comment on specific cases “to protect the integrity of our investigative process.”

According to the SafeSport code, anyone who has been suspended by the center is unable to participate in any capacity at U.S. Olympic & Paralympic events or activities.

“Teri has coached hundreds of athletes. The fact that 19 athletes over almost 40 years are making complaints is a very small number,” Little told The Times. “She’s not Bobby Knight. What she’s a victim and product of, quite frankly, is a USA Swimming, male-dominated coaching system. Look, Teri didn’t do anything that … that male coaches [haven’t done] all the time. And the fact that Teri is in this is a reflection on female coaches in Olympic sport. To this day, she’s the only woman who’s coached an Olympic swim team.

“And so while it’s not right to grab your athlete’s arm, it’s inexcusable, and while it’s not right to swear and curse — really? These are adult athletes at the top women’s swim program in the country. I’m just — I’m sad that we wasted all our time and resources on this.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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