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Northland College investigates departed athletic director/women's basketball coach
Former staff and students at Northland College in Ashland are alleging they’ve been mistreated by the college’s former athletics director. Danielle Kaeding has part one of an investigative report.
The accusations are against former Northland College Athletics Director Bill Wilson.
There have been two investigations by Northland College into Wilson in the last year. WRNC has learned that Wilson was reportedly the subject of a hostile work environment investigation last spring for comments he allegedly made to female employees. That investigation concluded that he was not creating a hostile work environment for female workers.
The station has also learned that Wilson was the subject of a Title IX investigation earlier this year for alleged discriminatory treatment of female students on the women’s basketball team. Results of the Title IX investigation this year were not disclosed after Wilson’s resignation. Neither Wilson nor the school would comment.
Former Northland Head Women’s Soccer Coach Amanda Evans says Wilson is the reason she left Northland College. As a woman, she felt discriminated against and overheard inappropriate remarks.
“Myself and another female was in his office. Another male coach walked into his office and the first thing that Bill said to him was ‘Why didn’t you tell me so and so was so good-looking. I would’ve returned her call a lot sooner.’”
Evans coached soccer from March 2011 to July 2013 at Northland. Evans says human resources told her last spring that Wilson was being investigated on whether he was creating a hostile work environment for employees. Evans believes the investigation was initiated as a result of concerns she voiced, but she can’t say for certain. She says Wilson talked down to her and other coaching staff – sometimes in front of students.
“Since Bill has been made AD, we’ve had five coaching changes and that’s for a reason.”
WRNC made attempts to reach seven coaches who worked with Wilson who are no longer with the college, including Amanda and her husband Tony Evans. Three did not return requests for comment.
Speaking anonymously for this story for fear of career backlash, one former coach tells a different story from Amanda Evans. He says she exaggerated incidents, and Wilson doesn’t seem to be getting a fair shake. The former coach says it’s difficult to say whether Wilson treated men and women differently. He says athletes stirred things up on the women’s basketball team because Wilson is stubborn, blunt and demands perfection.
Another coach speaking anonymously for fear of damaging relationships with the college agrees with Amanda Evans. He says Wilson was like Jekyll and Hyde. He says Wilson could turn from a nice guy to a hothead that shut down communication or demoralized staff and students. Still, the former coach says he didn’t witness any discrimination toward employees or students.
But, Rebecca Lake isn’t so sure. Lake played basketball under Wilson for three years until she graduated in 2012. She says she and another player felt singled out for being gay.
“He would comment to us sometimes when we were goofing around at practice that we were playing grab ass. But, he didn’t really seem to direct that at anyone else.”
Northland senior and basketball player Sarah Hudson says former assistant women’s basketball coach Tony Evans once spoke to her about her relationship with a team member.
“He’s like, ‘This is really hard for me to say and really hard for me to talk about. But, you guys aren’t allowed to sit next to one another at the restaurants or on the bus because Bill Wilson says the team has been made uncomfortable by it.”
When pressed, Tony Evans says Wilson wouldn’t name names.
“The fact that he would state that sort of thing to me and follow it up with ‘Well, some of my best friends are homosexual.’ It’s almost like he knew what he was saying wasn’t the best thing to express, but he would send me to do it.”
Amanda and Tony Evans say they shared their experiences with human resources last year. Evans says she was contacted for a college Title IX investigation involving students this winter. But, she says the college didn’t follow up after initial contact.
Northland College says it does not comment on personnel matters as a matter of policy. Wilson resigned April 25 from the college effective immediately. WRNC reached Wilson for comment a day prior to his resignation. He said there was no story and didn’t know what he was allowed to discuss. He did not return repeated follow-up calls for comment.
This investigative series is a special report by WRNC and has not been reviewed or approved by Northland College. In part two of this three-part investigative report, WRNC details how the college addressed information about Wilson from former staff and women’s basketball players prior to a Title IX investigation.
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