University of Illinois Springfield Golf Team Accuses Head Coach of ‘Shocking Abuse’ – Minding The Campus

In recent interviews with 2aDaysUniversity of Illinois-Springfield (UIS) student-athletes accuse head golf coach Michal Leotta of serious misconduct, revealing a disturbing pattern of abuse and systemic failure within the university’s athletic department. These revelations reflect broader problems in college sports and underscore the urgent need for reform to protect student-athletes.

Former Athletic Director Laura Liesman allegedly knew about the abuse and failed to address it. Players have raised concerns about Leotta’s potential return, stating they are reluctant to continue the UIS program if he remains in his position. Liesman resigned at the end of November 2023 and, according to NPR in Illinois“No reason given.” Despite requests for comment on her resignation, the university has not yet responded.

Athletes who chose to remain anonymous described a number of disturbing incidents involving Leotta, ranging from verbal abuse and discrimination against foreign athletes to unsafe practices and neglect.

During a recent match, for example, the UIS women’s golf team went 36 holes in the blazing sun without water for more than nine and a half hours because Leotta allegedly failed to provide it. The incident led to a confrontation at the bus stop, where Leotta allegedly responded angrily, throwing napkins and accusing the team of lacking competitive spirit. He allegedly attacked and verbally harassed two international athletes, accusing them of never taking responsibility. The incident left several team members visibly shaken and in tears.

After the incident, the two athletes filed a Title IX lawsuit against Leotta in October. They won the case in January, but no significant action has been taken yet. Leotta’s appeals have been denied twice.

Leotta’s initially friendly demeanor reportedly changes as athletes join the team. Complaints led to changes in lodging practices from Airbnb to hotel rooms. The team’s mental health suffered, with one athlete redshirting due to anxiety allegedly induced by Leotta.

The UIS golf team case reflects systemic problems in college sports. The lack of accountability and inadequate response from the athletic department underscore the urgent need for change to ensure the safety and well-being of student-athletes. Addressing the culture of silence and tolerance of abuse in athletic programs is essential to preventing future incidents.

Universities must implement more robust oversight mechanisms, provide better support systems, and enforce strict penalties for misconduct. Holding everyone accountable, offering transparent and anonymous reporting processes, and prioritizing athletes’ mental and physical well-being are key steps to creating a safer and more supportive environment for all student-athletes.

Photo by University of Illinois Springfield – Flickr

  • Jessi Wynn is a 2aDays intern for the summer of 2024. She graduated from Florida State University in May 2024 with a double major in Public Relations and Sport Management. Jessi will continue her education at Florida State University, earning her Masters in Sport Management starting in the fall of 2024. Her dream is to work in Public Relations for a professional sports team or league. Connect with Jessi on Instagram @jwynn03 and LinkedIn @Jessi-Wynn.

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