A number of former players who are departing SFU’s Men’s Basketball team have come forward with allegations against former Head Coach Virgil Hill. Hill resigned from his position earlier today.
SFU Athletics announced Hill’s resignation in a press release written by Steve Frost, Sports Information Director, less than a year after he was officially announced as SFU’s men’s basketball coach. He took over on April 15, 2015 after the resignation of former Head Coach James Blake.
Athletics Director Theresa Hanson said in a press release, “Virgil and I met to review and evaluate the basketball season and at that time he informed me that he has decided to resign his position as men’s basketball coach to spend more time with his young family.” Hill’s decision comes on the heels of several allegations against him, originating from several players who left the team this semester.
One of the players who left the team with four games remaining in the season spoke to The Peak about why he left. “It’s just such a horrible atmosphere. Losing never helps, but the coaching staff just does not look out for us.” The player asked to remain anonymous.
The “losing” to which the player refers is likely SFU’s results on the court. The team went 2–24 on the season, and 1–19 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The team went through a 18-game losing streak, and got its first and only conference win on February 11 against Concordia University.
The player alleged that in one instance, the coaching staff did not provide the team with meals while on an away game. According to him, “Before Sonoma State, we passed around a XL bag of peanut M&M’s before we played, and that was the only thing we had eaten before a 2 p.m. game.”
A second player who wished to remain anonymous corroborated the first’s account. “It’s true,” the second player said. “We [were] told we would stop somewhere and then we just went straight to Sonoma. They told us to go to the locker room and just put a bag of M&M’s on the desk.”
Denver Sparks-Guest, one of the seven players who departed this season, said his reason for leaving was “100 percent coaching,” saying that “there was no other reason.”
The first anonymous put particular emphasis on Hill’s behaviour towards Pape Seck, a player from Senegal, recounting comments made about Seck’s language ability and religious beliefs.
“Losing never helps, but the coaching staff just does not look out for us.”
According to the player, those comments included, “‘Virgil countless times said things such as ‘this isn’t a language barrier, it’s a stupidity barrier,’ ‘my 10-year-old son is smarter than you,’ ‘you didn’t play in junior college, you haven’t played here, you’ll never play anywhere.’ He called him an idiot and retarded plenty of times.”
The second anonymous player also corroborated the first’s allegations of “[Pape] being called out in that manner” by Hill.
The first player added: “Ultimately the worst incident was when Virgil said to me in his office when it was just him and I [. . .] ‘Pape can pray eight times a day but he can’t make it to practice. . . His Muslim faith doesn’t fit in here in this culture.’”
The Peak reached out to coach Hill for his comments on the amount of players leaving the team. He provided the following statement: “Players and programs part ways for various reasons and we are no different. I wish the departed players the best of luck with the remainder of their collegiate careers.”
When asked to comment on specific allegations, Hill declined.
Seck said that he was “not comfortable” in practice and stopped practicing with coach Hill as a result. “It was more of the way he acted, [he was] not respectful,” he said. “You can’t take a high school coach [and bring him] to the NCAA. He’s not a good coach, he has to learn to talk to men.”
The first anonymous player also stated that people within SFU Athletics were aware of allegations against Hill. “Kelly Weber, Laura Reid, [and] the athletic director Theresa Hanson all know.”
Sparks-Guest stated that he talked to an unspecified Athletics Director before his departure, and Seck said that he “talked to Laura [Reid]” within SFU Athletics.
Athletics Director Theresa Hanson said that “I am aware of some challenges within our men’s basketball program. I was not aware of all of the allegations that you have brought forward. I am disturbed by them. It is unfortunate that student athletes from our men’s basketball program have had a negative experience.”
The announcement came after The Peak contacted SFU Athletics to provide comment on the allegations made against him the day before. It is unclear if these allegations factored into his resignation.
Frost in the press release added that, “The search for a new head coach of the SFU men’s basketball program will begin immediately.”
“I would like to thank Simon Fraser University for the opportunity to come back and coach at my alma mater,” said Hill in an official press release by SFU Athletics.
“At this time I am tendering my resignation. This decision was a difficult one as I wanted to bring this program back to a level of competitiveness that we know is possible. My decision is based on the needs of my young family and my need to support my wife in raising our children.”