Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle accused of ridiculing player who defecated during workout
By Rob Demovsky, USA TODAY Sports April 30, 2013 11:24AM
Updated: April 30, 2013 6:24PM
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Ryan Bross, the former University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball player whose allegations led to an investigation of head coach Brian Wardle, went public with his accusations Monday.
In an interview with Press-Gazette Media, Bross shared the details of his complaint, which focused on allegations of vulgar, demeaning language Wardle used against the walk-on freshman and an incident in which the coach made an ill Bross continue a workout until he couldn’t control his bowels and then ridiculed him for it.
Bross’ mother, Brooke, outlined these complaints in a letter she submitted to UWGB Chancellor Thomas Harden on April 9. Harden announced two days later that the school would use an independent investigator to look into these claims.
Attorney Joseph Nicks, who interviewed Bross on Monday, is handling the investigation.
Wardle, 33, who has a 47-49 record in three seasons as head coach, declined comment but issued a statement. Wardle played for Hinsdale Central High School and Marquette.
“I can assure you the well-being of my players is foremost in my mind at all times,” Wardle said in the statement. “I cannot comment on the specific allegations under federal privacy laws. I can say the version of events you are reporting is inaccurate. I have fully cooperated with the independent investigator, as have our players and coaches. I fully expect the eyewitnesses to these allegations you are reporting will contradict the version you are reporting.”
Among those allegations were:
— Wardle ridiculed him after he defecated in his pants during a preseason conditioning drill, calling him “a piece of (expletive)” and that “he had never seen such a big (expletive)” and continued to bring up that incident throughout the season.
According to Bross, Wardle said: “We literally ran the (expletive) out of one player” and that “we might need to try it again next year.”
— Wardle used a homophobic slur and other sexually related derogatory language to to indicate Bross was soft, Bross said.
— Wardle told Bross he would be a better player if Bross had sex with a girl he was interested in dating, according to Bross.
Bross, a 7-1 walk-on from Menomonee Falls, Wis., redshirted this past season and plans to transfer to Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., for the next school year.
Most bothersome to the Brosses, they said, was what happened during an October training session called “boot camp,” which takes place in the weeks before practice begins. Bross told the coaches that he was feeling ill before the players began an exercise in which they ran up and down hills near campus. He said he had to go to the bathroom.
“Coach Wardle told me to stop being a (expletive) and to go into the woods,” Bross said. “So I went into the woods and took a crap. I came back and he was like, ‘Are you all done? Are you OK? Are you done being a (expletive) now, Ryan?’ because they thought I was faking it, but I wasn’t. So I kept running the hills. I finished one hill. I came back down, and I told them I was not feeling well again, and (Wardle) made me run another hill again because he told me that I was being a baby and that I was letting down the team and I was letting down myself, and that I was letting down everyone.”
Bross said it was at that point that he couldn’t control his diarrhea and soiled his pants.
“I got down to the bottom (of the hill), and Wardle told me I was a piece of (expletive) and that he had never seen such a big (expletive) in his life and that I was the biggest piece of (expletive) he had ever seen,” Bross said.
When asked whether he believed Wardle knew that Bross had soiled his pants, Bross said yes because it was visible in his white shorts.
Bross said he wanted to return to his dorm room but his keys were at the athletic center. He said assistant coach Chrys Cornelius drove him back to the athletic center in a recreational utility vehicle but that no one offered him a change of clothes or even a towel before entering the building.
“So they made me walk through the Kress Center in front of 20 people, and I had to walk through there and go get my keys and get changed before I could go back to my room,” Bross said. “I felt humiliated. I felt like they didn’t care about me, that there were 20-some people that saw me — girls, guys. I felt terrible. I felt like I let down the team and everyone down, and the coaches kept reminding me and telling me. They told me what a piece of (expletive) I was; that I was terrible.”
Bross said Wardle continued to call him a “piece of (expletive)” approximately once a week for several months into the season.
When asked why he didn’t speak up at the time, Bross said, “I was afraid that I’d get kicked off the team or have something happen to me, so I didn’t bring it up.”
Brooke Bross said she was not aware of the incident until several months later.
“I knew something was wrong with Ryan, but I didn’t know what it was,” Brooke Bross said. “He wouldn’t tell us. He just figured this must be how it is in Division I. It wasn’t until his teammates started saying to him, ‘This isn’t right.’ “
The father of star player Alec Brown spoke in favor of Wardle early in the investigation, and last week Wardle received a standing ovation from a group of boosters at a fundraiser at Lambeau Field.
Through a university spokesman, Harden declined comment until the investigation has been completed. Bross spoke to Nicks on Monday. Several other players and former players were interviewed during the past two weeks. It was unclear how many more interviews Nicks still had to conduct.
Bross said that at least three times during the season, Wardle told him he would be a better player if he had sex. Bross’ mother said that bothered her son because he has strong religious beliefs, which she said is part of the reason he is transferring to Concordia, a Lutheran university.
“He named a girl’s name, I don’t know how he figured out her name, but he named a girl’s name that I was interested in and told me that if he brought her in and I had sex with her, that I would be playing better,” Bross said. “And that if I did, that then I would be a better athlete.”
Bross said shortly after the Phoenix lost to Valparaiso in the Horizon League tournament March 9, he told Wardle he intended to transfer. At that point, Bross said he thought the season was over. However, the Phoenix were invited to the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament.
“After that, he forces me to go to practice because he wouldn’t give me my transfer,” Bross said. “He told me I needed to talk to my parents, and that he would not give me my release. So I go to practice that day, and we have a meeting with the whole team beforehand. He talks for 20 minutes about how big of a disappointment I was and how much I was letting them down. The whole team told me before that I should get out, that I should leave.”
Bross said when he came to UWGB, he understood that Wardle did not promise him a scholarship but that if he improved during the season, one might be available. Bross said that even if he were given a scholarship, he would not stay.
Bross also said he picked UWGB because Wardle told him he could take all the necessary classes to work toward a human biology major because he wanted to study medicine.
However, Bross said Wardle changed his course on that. Bross said his academic adviser told him that Wardle prohibited him from taking a biology class.
“So I go talk to him (because) it wasn’t interfering with practice times or anything,” Bross said. “But he told me it was too hard, and he was not going to allow me to take my major because it was going to be too hard, and it would conflict with the basketball season down the road. Even though (previously) he told me I could take the classes I wanted, the classes that I needed for my major, he wasn’t going to allow me to take those.”
Bross said the same thing happened when he tried to take a chemistry class in the second semester. He said he probably would not have attended UWGB had he known he wouldn’t have been able to pursue a human biology degree. Bross said he plans to take those classes at Concordia.
When asked why he and his family filed the complaint against Wardle, Bross said, “I just want for the guys coming in, the recruits and everyone else, to be treated fairly and for them to be in a situation that they will succeed and that won’t hinder their performance, and they won’t have someone who is downgrading and belittling them every day. I just want a place where it’s a good work-place environment for a student athlete. So I just want someplace where the students coming in and the guys here, so that they don’t get all the crap that happened to me.”
Rob Demovsky also writes for the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette.