Alleged player mistreatment led to Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson's resignation

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson yells and gestures during an NCAA college football game against Ball State in Bloomington, Ind. (Chris Howell/The Herald-Times via AP, File)

Last week, turnaround head coach Kevin Wilson, who led the once struggling Indiana University football program to bowl eligibility the past two seasons, abruptly resigned after six years.

Wilson didn't say why, but in a news conference Thursday, IU athletic director Fred Glass said the two had a meeting that morning "for a continuation of a discussion we'd been having for a few weeks and he and I concluded that the right outcome was for him to separate from Indiana University."

Glass cited "philosophical differences" on leadership, and little else.

He said there was "no smoking gun."

One state over, in Ohio, the father of former IU football player Nick Carovillano watched the news conference and seethed.

His son had left IU in the spring of 2015, after injuring his back the previous season and feeling like, among other things, the trainers and coaches - especially Wilson - neglected to take it seriously enough, the player's father, Dean Carovillano, told the Indianapolis Star and ESPN.

Wilson had created an unhealthy environment for injured players, Carovillano and his son alleged, and was verbally demeaning. Carovillano and his wife moved their son off the Bloomington, Indiana, campus in April and lodged a complaint with the athletic department the following day, the news outlets reported.

Carovillano knew his son's experience was not unique - and Glass's unwillingness to address the cause of Wilson's resignation during the news conference Thursday disappointed him, he told the IndyStar.

"There are no philosophical differences when it comes to handling injuries," Carovillano told the newspaper. "There's a right way and a wrong way."

Rumors had swirled for years that under coach Wilson, the team atmosphere had grown extraordinarily intense. Defenders of Wilson's tactics said his leadership was not for the "thin-skinned," that he is a coach who was unrelentingly tough, but not abusive, particularly for a sport like football. His intensity had built a winning program.

But others disagreed, stepping forward in the wake of Wilson's resignation to tell local media and the student newspaper about alleged mistreatment. One player told the Indiana Daily Student that trainers were too scared to tell Wilson during practice if a player was injured, alleging that Wilson would swear at the trainers in his office, then swear at the players in the training room. Another former player, Laray Smith, told the student newspaper Wilson was mentally abusive and that "once you were hurt, he didn't care about you."

Nick Carovillano, who injured his back, told the IndyStar that Wilson would come to the area where injured players worked out during practice and berate them.

"He would come over and yell at us, saying, 'I'm paying $70,000 a year for you to sit on your ass,'" Carovillano said. "That happened about halfway through the season and carried on to the end of it. If you were injured, he just wanted to make you feel like crap. He just wanted to make you feel bad, so you basically would stop being injured."

Since Wilson's resignation last week, numerous allegations in this vein have come to light.

In an exclusive interview with IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman, published Sunday afternoon, Glass, the athletic director, confirmed the details of the "philosophical differences" that led to Wilson's resignation.

Since the Carovillanos' complaint in 2015, IU conducted two investigations into Wilson's football program, according to the IndyStar.

Said Glass: "Was my decision impacted by things that went on before, including this? . . .. The answer is yes."

The first investigation concluded, after 20 interviews, that the football staff was abiding by protocol, but warned Wilson that negative rhetoric toward injured players, even in jest, would not be tolerated, something the coach had admitted to doing, according to documents obtained by the IndyStar.

"As head football coach," Glass wrote, according to the newspaper, "you are directly responsible for the welfare of your student-athletes. Accordingly, any comments attributed to you and your staff, whether said in jest or not, which have the effect of pressuring or demeaning injured players are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated."

Wilson was threatened with disciplinary action, and, according to Glass, the coaching staff seemed to implement the first investigation's recommendations. Five former players told the IndyStar that Wilson was "overly cautious" with them, reported the newspaper.

But in November, Glass said new incidents prompted him to open a second investigation.

He would not offer details, but Glass told the IndyStar he was "really shocked in early November when issues arose that I thought had been long resolved."

"If these issues had been in a vacuum, they would've been the kinds of things we could've worked through," Glass told the IndyStar. "It wasn't the first time I dealt with these issues. There comes a time when you run out of chances."

Wilson did not respond to requests for comment from the IndyStar, the newspaper reported.

Dean Carovillano, who told the IndyStar his son has not returned to football or to school, said the family didn't want anything from IU. He just wanted the university to be truthful.

"That's what we want," he told the newspaper. "It would've been a good day. But we didn't appreciate the stance the university took. There was a better way to handle it. But we're glad he's gone, Wilson's gone."

 

Author Information:

Katie Mettler is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. She previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Katie Mettler

 

 

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