Accusations of coaches bullying their players have become more common in collegiate athletics of late. Add to the list of programs in such turmoil Syracuse women's basketball, which has seen 11 players — including eight with more than a year of eligibility remaining — part ways with coach Quentin Hillsman during the one-month period following the Orange's second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament in March.
The Athletic spoke with nine former Syracuse players and 19 others, including team managers and staff members, who leveled a variety of allegations against Hillsman, including regularly threatening players verbally and sometimes using vulgar language, making players uncomfortable by kissing their foreheads, hiring a staff member previously accused of sexual harassment who made players and managers uncomfortable, and refusing players' requests for water after running punishing sprints.
In an email to school officials, The Athletic detailed the allegations against Hillsman and the program and asked for comment from Hillsman, athletic director John Wildhack and others. The school responded with a statement from Wildhack that read, in part: “Syracuse athletics remains committed to providing a healthy, academically rigorous, competitive and rewarding environment to all our student-athletes. Any behavior – from our student-athletes, coaches and staff – that contradicts our commitment to these ideals is investigated thoroughly, and if necessary, appropriate action is taken.”
A total of 20 Syracuse women's basketball players have transferred out of the program since 2018, the highest rate among Power 5 women's teams without a coaching change during that span, The Athletic reported. The 11 transfers this season were the most among any Division I program, men or women.
Hillsman has brushed off the volatility, telling reporters during a Zoom call, “We have some seniors that have opportunities to pursue other options." When asked in April about the situation, Hillsman referred only to three seniors who had transferred within the ACC, calling it "a compliment to us," according to The Athletic. He added, "I’m good. If I had a problem, I would tell you. We’re fine.”