Yesterday, former Wisconsin-Green Bay player Ryan Bross went public with a complaint his parents sent to UWGB accusing coach Brian Wardle of abuse, including the use of a homophobic slur and an instance in which Wardle and his staff allegedly forced Bross to vacate his bowels from extensive preseason "boot camp" training. Another former player, Brennan Cougill, and his mother submitted a similar complaint to university president Thomas Harden in early April, and the school has long since opened an internal investigation with no current timetable for completion.
In a somewhat unusual twist Tuesday afternoon -- unusual because players don't typically address situations like these to the public, let alone on open radio -- two of Wardle's current team leaders, Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes, talked to local Green Bay radio hosts Maino and Nick. Both players refuted claims made by Bross and Cougill. Sykes said the "context" of the incidents was "skewed"; Brown went so far as to argue Bross and Cougill were lying.
Another day has brought another set of public accusations: On Wednesday, Cougill told Green Bay Press-Gazette writer Rob Demovsky -- to whom Bross initially went public -- that both players were wrong, that they couldn't have seen what Bross was accusing Wardle of:
Cougill, however, said neither Brown nor Sykes were in the same running group as Bross during the October training session that took place on the hills near campus. Cougill said the group included Bross, freshman Nick Arenz and himself. When Bross dropped out because he defecated himself, the rest of the group continued to run, and the other groups were not nearby, said Cougill, whose mother also filed a complaint against Wardle.
It was at that point Bross said Wardle ridiculed him ... Cougill said when Bross dropped out, the rest of the players kept running, leaving Bross alone with Wardle.
“Ryan went back in the woods to take care of his business, and I can vouch no one else ever went back there with Ryan except for Wardle,” Cougill said.
This is pretty weird, right? As I wrote yesterday, the independent investigator will have to sort all of this out for himself, and Green Bay's institutional staff is already on high alert, well aware, in our post-Mike Rice world, of how carefully and thoroughly allegations of coach mistreatment should be treated. It's no use to speculate, but let's say this: At least one person is wrong. I have no idea why players and their parents would falsify accounts against a former coach, as Brown alleged, and an attempt to tarnish a program out of some sort of strange vendetta doesn't strike me as a very good reason. Why not just move on? Or, conversely, if these things are false or even exaggerated, why? What's the motivation?
This is college basketball; you honestly never know. It seems UWGB's independent investigator is in an immensely unenviable position.