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Review Clearing Illinois' Underwood Raises Questions

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Following a recent investigation of men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood, the University of Illinois will review its reporting policies and athletic oversight roles according to The News-Gazette.

The investigation into Underwood was tied to his alleged treatment of players during the 2017-18 basketball season. A summary of the allegations said he had been accused of “verbal abuse, racial harassment and punitive use of physical activity.” Underwood was cleared of any wrongdoing after the investigation, but two faculty members complained that the investigation was “flawed,” The News-Gazette reports.

The two faculty members — Michael LeRoy and Michael Raycraft, who both sit on the university’s athletic board — said that the current system for conducting these sensitive investigations allows for some conflicts of interest, and argued that certain allegations should automatically be referred to an independent third-party investigator.

In a January memo, the two wrote to AD Josh Whitman saying “We are skeptical that the investigation was thorough, objective and skillfully conducted.”

LeRoy and Raycraft’s complaints focus primarily on who staffed the investigation, and how it was conducted. Four faculty members — two from the university’s Big Ten representatives and two from the athletic department’s executive staff — made up the review team. No players who left the program in recent years were interviewed, according to LeRoy and Raycraft’s complaints. They also complained that current reporting policies don’t provide student-athletes with an option to report to an external authority, such as the ethics or Title IX offices.  

Whitman, for his part, said that the Underwood investigation followed “standard protocol.” He said that the review team consulted with campus legal counsel and spoke to the original source of the allegations. Whitman added that he thought it was inappropriate for LeRoy and Raycraft to speak on these matters, calling their memo “outside the bounds of your respective responsibilities.”

Chancellor Robert Jones defended the review, calling it “thorough and completed through appropriate, standard processes.”

Still, Whitman acknowledged some of the concerns and said that he would conduct a review department policies.

Underwood took over the head coaching job at Illinois in 2017. After the 2017-18 campaign, six players who had remaining eligibility left the program.

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