Monday, April 13, 2015

It Started Badly, it Ended Badly

Traci Waites

One of the best student journalists and broadcasters at Columbia over the past 25 years was a young man named Phil Wallace. 

Phil has never let Columbia sports get too far away from his mind in the more than a decade since he graduated. And now, his investigative and persuasive efforts have finally uncovered the story behind the mysterious and sudden firing of Women's Basketball Head Coach Traci Waites. 

I highly suggest all of you read this article by Phil very carefully.

I know lots of my critics will hit me with accusations that by posting this, I'm kicking outgoing Athletic Director Dianne Murphy even though she's already defeated and in retreat.

But the reason I post it is to show what the reality was in this athletic department for the past 13 years. The Wallace article rings true not only because of Phil's hard work, but because Murphy's alleged actions all follow what in my opinion was a familiar and destructive pattern during her tenure at Columbia. That is, coaches who she did not hire or she did not think she could completely control were likely to be let go. In this case, a very promising and talented coach was gone before she could establish a record of any kind.

Another reason why I post this story is because Waites' reputation was so badly sullied by the firing and it was all based on rumor and innuendo. We were told she had a past history with substance abuse, and the public was almost forced to believe that Waites had suffered some kind of relapse. In fact, that was the prevailing "story" many of us were told.

And so Waites deserves to have her side of the story made public now, no matter that Murphy is leaving anyway and Columbia is preparing to give her a loving sendoff dinner.

I strongly believe that Murphy's conduct, exemplified early on by the way she treated Waites, badly hurt the athletic department at Columbia and that her overall record was not a good one at all.

If Murphy wants to respond to Phil or Waites or me, I will make sure her comments appear here.

And even though I believe Peter Piling has already done a lot of the right things so far in his tenure as her replacement, we need to hear these kinds of reports to remind everyone about what should and shouldn't happen at our school.


alswingman said...

Wow, just incredible the level of botchery M. Dianne Murphy leaves in her wake. Hopefully karma gives her a fitting body slam and she becomes a footnote in history no one remembers.

Big Dawg said...

I believe that many of us, including me, are predisposed to have a negative view of Murphy. I think the referenced article reinforces that.

However, no where in the piece is there any explanation for "why". At most, an allusion to Murphy's contacts at Pitt. So I'm guessing that it was a combo of
1) Murphy seeking to assert her authority over the department.
2) Perhaps a personal
3) Using the "beer" pretext as flimsy justification.

Certainly the reluctance of personnel to talk about this 10 years later, even when no longer connected to CU, is curious. It is perhaps testimony not only to the fear of retribution from Murphy (of which much has been written) but also to the classic mindset of AD strivers.

In any event, a winning coach had her life disrupted for what are apparently spurious reasons, and sadly the incident plays into our existing perception of the sort of person Murphy is. April 13 should become a Columbia holiday.

Coach said...

President Bollinger has stated on many occasions that she did a outstanding job as AD.

Jay Raskin said...

Jake, you say you were told that Waites had a past history with substance abuse... Do you remember who told you? Also what kind of substance was she accused of abusing?

Jake said...

A few big donors told me THEY were told that Waites had a drug problem that she overcame but then had a relapse. Turns out that story was totally false. I can only hope no one in the administration was the source of that falsehood. But I can tell you that this addiction narrative was the most dominant story that came out of this in the following years.

Jay Raskin said...

Thanks Jake for the the information. I think it is horrible the University has not given an explanation. It is only basic fairness to students and Ms. Waites that the University give an explanation. If it was just a beer given to a student, then Columbia should say so. I'm sure there are lots of colleges that would consider it trivia and be happy to hire Ms. Waites. On the other hand, if it was something more serious like drug addiction, any future potential employer should definitely have that information before they make a decision on employing her. I actually found your article because I was doing research on the use of steroids by women's college basketball players and I thought this story might have had something to do with that.

alswingman said...

She didn't give a beer to a student-athlete. It was alleged that she drank a beer while on the road with the team. This was in an off hour so the action impacted nothing. She did not go on a drunken rage or do anything counter productive.

If true, the firing is ridiculous and shameful. I recall a story a few years ago where Rick Pitino and an assistant stopped off for fast food on the road, met some floozy and they took her with them. In fact, both "dated" her. Can you imagine? Yes, that Rick Pitino, married man with family. Long story short the assistant coach married the floozy and then tried to blackmail Pitino who went to the FBI. Dirty laundry was aired and arrests were made. Pitino kept his job and continues to produce excellent results to this date. It's all true, look it up.

...and a female basketball coach who has a beer is fired.