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Women’s basketball legend and former Texas Southern head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke was accused by multiple players of degrading and abusive behavior, which included using “overt sexual language” that led to a Title IX investigation by the university and her subsequent retirement, according to a bombshell report by The Athletic.
The report, published Thursday, revealed several accusations leveled by players at Texas Southern about inappropriate remarks made by Cooper-Dyke, including sexual references and shaming players’ physical appearances.
According to records of the investigation reviewed by the outlet, Cooper-Dyke said one player who was dealing with a known mental health diagnosis would “be all right, she just needs some d—, that’s all.” She later referred to that same player as a “sorry-a– virgin,” according to the report.
USC Trojans head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke talks with USC Trojans guard Aliyah Mazyck (21) during a timeout of a game between the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. (David Dennis/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
She also allegedly made comments about players’ physical appearances, prompting one to stop eating in front of her coach after she was shamed about her weight in front of the team.
Following its investigation, the university implemented a limited-contact order between Cooper-Dyke and the team in January, prohibiting one-on-one meetings and contact through phones and emails. Less than a month later, that policy had changed to a no-contact order which prohibited any contact outside of games and practices.
The Athletic spoke to 25 people, including former staff and players throughout Cooper-Dyke’s career who revealed firsthand accounts of similar accusations that date back at least a decade. Some of those accusations included speaking of her own and players’ sex lives, cruel name-calling and excessive punishment that had both a physical and mental health toll.
“Nobody has said anything or done anything, just passed her off to the next school,” one USC player told the outlet. “This woman mentally and emotionally terrorized us.’’
Head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke of the USC Trojans talks to her team during a timeout against the Cal State Northridge Matadors in the first half of a game at The Matadome Dec. 10, 2013, in Northridge, Calif. (Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
Cooper-Dyke announced her retirement March 17, just weeks before a scheduled hearing related to the university’s investigation. According to the report, that hearing was later canceled.
In a text message to The Athletic, Cooper-Dyke wrote that she has had “positive relationships with the majority of players and staff” and denied the allegations.
“Throughout my years as a coach, I’ve had countless interactions with players in my role as their coach, mentor and friend,” Cooper-Dyke said. “I had positive relationships with the majority of players and staff, and my only intention was to maximize players’ potential and help them be their best. While these allegations are untrue, everyone deserves to work, play and learn in a respectful environment, and I deeply apologize for and regret any words used during the course of a spirited game or practice that offended or hurt someone.”
Texas Southern declined to comment on specifics, citing the Title IX investigation, but added, “Please be assured that the university takes any issues that impact the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff seriously to ensure a learning environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”
USC Trojans head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke as USC defeats Stanford 72-68 in the Pac-12 basketball tournament. (Joshua Weisberg/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
A four-time WNBA champion and four-time Finals MVP, Cooper-Dyke was the first WNBA player to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Cooper-Dyke continued her success through coaching. At Prairie View A&M, she led the Panthers to a conference title in her second season and earned the university’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 2005. In 2010, she took over the coaching job at UNC Wilmington before moving on to Texas Southern just two years later. She moved on to USC in 2013 before making her return to Texas Southern in 2019.