NKU Performance Reviews Addressed Coach's Behavior | Athletic Business

NKU Performance Reviews Addressed Coach's Behavior

Northern Kentucky University women's basketball coach Camryn Whitaker had been told in recent performance reviews to be more positive with her players, but it wasn't enough to deter the athletic department from extending her contract through 2021.

The Cincinnati Enquirer obtained the performance reviews under Kentucky's Open Records Act. The paper also sought any Title IX complaints on file, but the university refused that request, given that 

Weeks after the 2018-19 season ended, several former players and parents accused Whitaker of being emotionally abusive and a bully throughout her time at NKU, which dates back to 2016. They described a "toxic environment' of intimidation, manipulation and humiliation" that included frequent verbal attacks of players' characters in interviews with The Enquirer. The university announced an independent review of the program in April.

Related: Abuse Allegations Emerge Against NKU Hoops Coach

In her first year with the Norse, Whitaker needed to improve "working with individual student-athletes and their issues and recognizing each student-athlete is motivated by different techniques and she needs to find what motivates them," athletic director Ken Bothof wrote in the 2017 review. He said he is "confident in our future and looks forward to working with Camryn to develop this program to become a Horizon League Championship in the future."

The second year, Bothof wrote that Whitaker needed to improve exercising "appropriate behavior at all events and practices," "keeping emotions intact after difficult losses," and "developing a positive approach to player/coach interaction," The Enquirer reported.

Bothof also noted in the 2018 review that Whitaker needed to be a more "positive role model for the student-athletes" and better balance "when parents view their student-athletes struggling as to whether this is a 'playing time' issue or a coach/player relationship issue." Whitaker, who did not provide comments on her first review, responded to the second by writing, "During the season, specifically toward the end I became much more positive and tried to be more consistent in my demeanor in practice and in games with the team."

After the review, the university extended Whitaker's initial 4-year contract until 2021. Whitaker is paid $140,000 and given a $6,000 car allowance. She also can receive incentive payments, based on how many games the team won, whether it takes Horizon League championships, goes to the NCAA tournament. She has earned two $1,000 bonuses for the players maintaining their grades above a B average.

In a 24-month review completed last June, Bothof complimented Whitaker's work ethic, recruiting efforts and strength and conditioning program and indicated that she "meets expectations" in her coaching success and skills and in her relationship with student-athletes.

Before the 2018-19 season, Whitaker signed NKU's statement of expectations for coaches and staff members. It says "conduct that is verbally or physically threatening or abusive, belligerent, or harassing is never appropriate and shall not occur at any time." However, it says there isn't a strict definition of appropriate behavior because athletic programs require coaches to interact "physically and vigorously with student-athletes."

Several student-athletes have spoken up in support of Whitaker.

Still, the university has retained Kelly Schoening Holden, who heads the employment law practice of the Cincinnati law firm Dressman Benzinger LaVelle, to lead a program assessment, the cost and timing of which has yet to be determined.

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