The University launched an investigation Monday into softball coach Shaunte’ Fremin after players accused her of mental and physical abuse and possible NCAA violations. Several players said in interviews with The Hatchet that Fremin repeatedly coerced them into playing with serious injuries, lying to trainers and doctors, and practicing beyond NCAA weekly limits.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the players said Fremin kept them silent since she was hired in August by creating informal rules against complaining to parents, doctors and administrators about injuries. Players said Fremin enforced these rules by creating an atmosphere of fear and punishment.
“I have recently been made aware of the alleged violations, and we’re investigating,” said GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz.
Fremin said Tuesday night she has hired an attorney and has been advised not to comment on any of the charges. But earlier in the day, she denied the allegations.
“I can tell you straight up that my side is right,” she said. “All my opinions on what really happened is right.”
When asked whether her job was in jeopardy, Fremin said, “No, no. I haven’t done anything wrong.” She added that only one player and one parent are driving the player revolt.
But another player’s parent, speaking anonymously, said she would “not allow (her) daughter to play for that woman,” and some parents are considering bringing legal action against the University. Assistant Coach Trena Peel said “it is definitely more than one player and one parent.”
Because the team does not have enough healthy players to take the field, its doubleheader against the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore Tuesday was canceled. The team’s next games, which are scheduled for March 9 and March 11, will also be canceled. Practices have been suspended indefinitely and players said the University has instructed Fremin not to try to contact them until the investigation is over.
In each of the six months after Fremin took over last summer, a different player quit the team. But current players said their unhappiness with Fremin grew gradually.
“It happened slowly,” one of the team’s leading players said. “I think I was the last one to reject everything, and I think that’s what it took. In order to have something happen, it took all of us finally being like, ‘No, this isn’t right,’ and that’s just what happened this past weekend.”
With all but one of the players suffering through some kind of injury, players said, the situation came to a boiling point during last weekend’s GW Invitational Tournament at Mount Vernon.
“On Saturday night, we were told that (team trainer Kent Hulnick) had said we needed to forfeit all three games (on Sunday due to injuries),” one player said.
She said Fremin, who allegedly often ignored or discounted the advice of trainers and doctors, told the team, “‘The trainers are trying to get us to forfeit, and that’s not going to happen. You don’t forfeit your own tournament.'”
Hulnick declined any comment Tuesday, but Peel said the allegations of Fremin’s frequent disregard for the advice of trainers and doctors about her players are accurate.
With only nine players cleared to participate in Sunday’s games, the team would have to forfeit if one more player decided not to play. Despite their injuries, players said they competed in two of three scheduled games Sunday because Fremin, as she had done in the past, threatened their scholarships.
“She never directly said, ‘Well, you’re injured. You have to go out there and play,'” one player said. “It wasn’t so much what she said. It was the intimidation factor. It was the fact that she had our scholarships.”
Peel denied that members of the team were forced to play.
“If they were on the field that was their decision,” she said.
Several players described a team meeting they had after their first game, an 8-1 loss to Colgate University. During the meeting, the players claimed Fremin said, “‘The majority of you won’t be getting scholarships next year. You won’t be here. So why don’t we go around the circle and see what you’re going to do to keep your scholarship.'”
Fremin said all her players’ scholarships were renewed a few days before the tournament, but Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Susie Jones said no players’ scholarships have been renewed, noting that scholarships are not typically renewed until late spring.
After losing 6-0 to Manhattan College in the next game, the University wrote in a press release that the team’s third game, scheduled to start at 3 p.m., was canceled to due “impending darkness.”
But players said the game was canceled because sophomore Rebecca Schumer said she could not play.
“Finally, after the second game, Becca said, ‘I can’t play a third game. I can’t do it,’ because she would sprint to first base and come back into the dugout with tears in her eyes,” a player said.
In response to these allegations, Fremin declined to comment specifically to The Hatchet beyond her general denial of the charges.
After the second game, sophomore Elana Meyers’ mother reportedly got into a verbal confrontation with Fremin, during which Fremin told her players to go to their locker room. Players said that was the last time they saw Fremin.
Players said they met Monday afternoon with Kvancz and Mary Jo Warner, GW’s senior associate athletic director, and broke their silence.
Several players also alleged during conversations with The Hatchet that Fremin put the team in violation of the NCAA’s 20-hour rule, which limits team practice hours to 20 per week.
Peel said that charge is accurate.
“It’s different now that games have started,” she said. “We’re not over (20 hours) now, but I know we have been.”
While NCAA rules stipulate that teams must have one day every week without any “countable athletically related activities,” one player said she has not had a day off since Jan. 12.
Fremin said she has a copy of the team’s practice log that disproves that allegation but did not provide a copy of it. Kvancz also declined to provide The Hatchet with a copy of the records.
Kvancz said the University hopes to complete its investigation by early next week, but one parent said Kvancz and Warner’s intervention came too late.
“The administration has had some responsibility in the lack of control of this person,” the parent said. “Since this person was a first-year head coach, they should have looked a little bit more closely into what she was doing and basically supervising her a little more closely than they obviously were doing, because they seem to be clueless as to what was going on.”
Several players said Peel should replace Fremin as the team’s head coach, an offer Peel said she would accept “under the right circumstances.”
“I’m not really involved. It’s (Fremin’s) issue,” Peel said. “I’m here for the girls and will be for the rest of the year regardless of what happens.”