Players Accuse Cynthia Cooper-Dyke of Abusive Behavior, per Report
Content warning: This story contains graphic language of a sexual nature.
Former players are accusing women’s basketball coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke of making sexual and degrading comments toward them, as well as endangering their physical and mental well-being, The Athletic‘s Chantel Jennings and Dana O’Neil reported Thursday.
The allegations against Cooper-Dyke stem from her stints at Texas Southern, UNC-Wilmington and USC. Players from those schools alerted school administrators of the coach’s actions of her during her tenures of her, but Cooper-Dyke’s career of her moved forward, seemingly unimpacted.
“Nobody has said anything or done anything, just passed her off to the next school,” one USC player told The Athletic. “This woman mentally and emotionally terrorized us.”
Cooper-Dyke coached Texas Southern’s women’s basketball team in the 2012–13 season and again from ’19 to ’22. During her most recent stint at Texas Southern, Cooper-Dyke was told that one of her players, who had a mental health diagnosis, was depressed. Cooper-Dyke said, “No, she will be all right; she just needs some d—, that’s all.” She then later called that same player a “sorry-a– virgin,” according to the report.
Cooper-Dyke also made an inappropriate comment to one player while she was doing squats, telling the player, “Ooh, your hips are big, you got a fat a– and I can tell you like to ride some d—. ” She also reportedly shamed one player for her weight, and the player was so upset that she stopped eating in front of Cooper-Dyke.
The allegations span over at least a decade of Cooper-Dyke’s collegiate coaching career. When at UNC-Wilmington, where she coached from 2010 to ’12, she is said to have talked about her and her players’ sex lives. In her first stint with the Tigers in ’12, the coach got on her knees and pretended to perform fellatio on a male assistant in front of players.
She also reportedly called players slurs and curse words, even asking a Texas Southern assistant coach whether she could send a player “home on a boat” while the team was at a tournament in the Bahamas. The player Cooper-Dyke was referring to is the daughter of Haitian immigrants.
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“She would talk to us like we were murderers in jail, if you know what I mean,” one player told The Athletic. “I’ve never had a coach that’s cussed at me like she did or said some of the things she would say.”
According to the report, Cooper-Dyke also subjected players to grueling drills that put players’ physical and mental health at risk. At USC, she allegedly pressured players who were injured or returning from injury to practice. Cooper-Dyke reportedly kicked a player off the team after forcing her to return to practice even though she was injured. When the player tried to explain she couldn’t bend her knee, Cooper-Dyke told her to get out of practice and that she was off the team.
When coaching at UNC-Wilmington, she reportedly put a player through a punishment drill that caused the player to vomit and the skin on her knees to rub off. That same player told The Athletic Cooper-Dyke turned the team against her, and the player quit the team. The player said that her coach’s actions against her made her feel “extremely suicidal.”
In the second half of Texas Southern’s season this year, the school put a limited-contact order on Cooper-Dyke and players. When the Tigers opened a Title IX investigation into the allegations, the school elevated the order to a full no-contact order that included assistant coaches Carlos Wilson and Atallah McKinney.
Cooper-Dyke announced her retirement on March 17. According to Texas Southern’s policy, a Title IX complaint can be dismissed if “the Respondent is no longer enrolled or employed by the University.” Witnesses were called on March 11 to testify in the former coach’s Title IX hearing, scheduled to take place April 6.
Shortly after her retirement, a player’s parent received a text from the Title IX officer informing them that the meeting had been canceled.
The coach called the allegations “untrue” in a statement to TheAthletic.
“Throughout my years as a coach, I’ve had countless interactions with players in my role as their coach, mentor and friend,” she said in a text. “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.”