Several former Syracuse softball players and one current player have alleged that head coach Shannon Doepking is responsible for a toxic environment on the team that allows verbal abuse, hazing and mistreatment.
The Daily Orange reports that since 2018, 12 players have quit the team or transferred, including seven former players cited by the paper in its reporting. Those players say that they’re dealing with enduring adverse mental health effects brought on by the environment within Doepking’s program.
“I remember sitting in the locker room and hearing kids just be like, ‘I want to kill myself. I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t take it anymore,’ ” one player told the Orange, speaking under the condition of anonymity.
Two players cited in the Orange’s report told the paper that they presented complaints to AD John Wildhack and senior deputy AD Herman Frazier as part of their exit meetings upon their graduation in 2019. Among those complaints were allegations that a team trip included a stay in a “cockroach-infested” Airbinb, in which teammates were forced to pair up and share a bed. One player reportedly had mononucleosis, and it spread among the team during the trip.
Allegations range from verbal harassment and abuse to bizarre mistreatment, including one claim where a player was forced to hand-launder uniforms, but wasn’t allowed to dry them. That incident led to the team competing in damp uniforms, ultimately resulting in several players contracting urinary tract and yeast infections.
“It was the wildest experience of my life,” a former player told the Orange of the incident.
The culmination of all the claims led to what one former player called “blatant disregard for the poor mental health” of the team.
“A lot of the mental health issues were stemming from, not the overwork, but the mental aspect of how we were treated,” said Alexis Crabtree, who left the team after the 2019 season.
In a statement to The Daily Orange, Frazier defended Doepking saying, “I feel strongly she is moving the program in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Doepking told the newspaper that while her coaching style may not be for everyone, she does not abuse her players.
“I am not a saint by any means. I am a tough coach, and I’m a tough coach because winning is important,” Doepking said. “I was brought here to do a job.”