For­mer ECU golfer helps bat­tle ath­lete mis­treat­ment

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY CHIP ALEXAN­DER calexan­[email protected]­sob­

When Victoria Allred was awarded a full golf schol­ar­ship to East Carolina in 2014, the Win­ston-Salem na­tive was elated, hav­ing achieved a per­sonal goal.

When it all turned night­mar­ish for her, when a back in­jury af­fected her abil­ity to play and a dis­be­liev­ing coach — in her opin­ion — wanted her gone from the pro­gram and her schol­ar­ship back, Allred be­lieved she had nowhere to turn, no way to fully air her grievances, no process for re­solv­ing what be­came a messy, at times con­tentious sit­u­a­tion.

Allred, 22, would stay at ECU, al­though not on the women’s golf team. She would use the schol­ar­ship to fin­ish de­gree work in three ma­jors, grad­u­at­ing in May with a 3.78 grade­point av­er­age.

But Allred and her fam­ily also be­came strong ad­vo­cates in push­ing for the re­cent pas­sage of a bill in the North Carolina leg­is­la­ture that in­cludes a Fair Treat­ment of Col­lege Ath­letes pro­vi­sion and could lead to broader pro­tec­tions for ath­letes. It cre­ates a com­mis­sion to study and as­sess the con­cerns of col­lege stu­den­tath­letes in the state such as Allred, who per­son­ally lob­bied leg­is­la­tors along with her fa­ther, Jay Allred.

The Allreds hope it will lead to a bill of rights for ath­letes and a code of con­duct for col­lege coaches. It may re­sult in com­pen­sa­tion for ath­letes,

could in­volve a dis­cus­sion of long-term treat­ment for in­jured ath­letes and ad­dress such is­sues as al­low­ing ath­letes to have le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble, the steps North Carolina is tak­ing to pro­tect its stu­dent-ath­letes,” Victoria Allred said in an in­ter­view. “I’m re­ally hop­ing this can push other state leg­is­la­tures to push for this as well, so that will push the NCAA to pass proper leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect their stu­den­tath­letes, which they are fail­ing to right now.”

State Sen. Jef­frey Tarte, a Meck­len­burg Repub­li­can, was one of the bill’s spon­sors and is ea­ger to be a mem­ber of the study com­mis­sion. In a re­cent meet­ing with Allred in his leg­isla­tive of­fice, Tarte told her, “You’re kind of go­ing to be our poster child for ev­ery­thing that’s wrong ... and you’re not an anom­aly. That’s the sad part.”

Tarte said the com­mis­sion would need to “get all the stake­hold­ers around the ta­ble” to dis­cuss the is­sues and pos­si­ble re­forms — pres­i­dents and chan­cel­lors, ath­letes, ath­letic di­rec­tors, con­fer­ence and NCAA rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“But that’s a part of the rea­son for the bill,” Tarte said. “If you have no voice and you’re a cap­tive ... It comes as close to mod­ern-day slav­ery as it can be, right?” ... This needs to be far­reach­ing, far-sweep­ing, get­ting at facts and back­ground. ...

“The prob­lem with the NCAA, at least the out­side per­cep­tion, is that they’ve cre­ated this mo­nop­oly of a busi­ness en­ter­prise and they’ve quit run­ning it in the in­ter­est of stu­dent-ath­letes but in­stead in the in­ter­est of pro­tect­ing this busi­ness en­ter­prise. .... If this (com­mis­sion) func­tions well, this will shed light on the ugly part of sports, in a sense, con­trolled by this. ... It’s to iden­tify what the is­sues are and then ... where are the re­forms that have to take place to cor­rect those?”

Tarte said any rec­om­men­da­tions needed to be fair so­lu­tions for both the ath­letes and the uni­ver­si­ties. “But the abuses need to come to a screech­ing halt,” he said.

Tarte said North Carolina could be trend­set­ter, that other states could fol­low with sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion and laws. Se­nate Bill 335, which in­cluded Fair Treat­ment of Col­lege Ath­letes, be­came state law Tues­day. The leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee is to com­plete its study by March 2019.

“If I was a stu­dent-ath­lete go­ing through the re­cruit­ing process and I saw the state of North Carolina was try­ing to pro­tect their stu­dent-ath­letes, I would be more en­cour­aged to go to a North Carolina school in­stead of a state with­out this leg­is­la­tion,” Victoria Allred said.


Allred played golf for her fa­ther at Rea­gan High School out­side Win­ston-Salem and was the 2011 North Carolina 4A state cham­pion. Awarded a four-year schol­ar­ship at East Carolina, she en­tered ECU in the fall of 2014 and com­peted as a fresh­man for ECU coach Kevin Wil­liams.

Af­ter her fresh­man year, Allred in­jured her lower back while play­ing in the N.C. Women’s Am­a­teur. She said she was di­ag­nosed at No­vant Med­i­cal Forsyth Med­i­cal Cen­ter with a sacroil­iac joint (SI) in­jury of the lower back that would re­quire six months of rest and re­cov­ery.

“I bring it to ECU in Au­gust (2015) and they say,‘This means noth­ing to us, we’re go­ing to do our own eval­u­a­tion and take con­ser­va­tive mea­sures,’ ” she said.

Allred said she un­der­went an MRI in Novem­ber 2015 in Greenville. “They said. ‘We can’t find any­thing wrong with you,’ ” she said.

She con­tin­ued to prac­tice and play in pain in the spring as a sopho­more, say­ing, “My whole sopho­more year Advil was an­other food group for me, just to try and get through it. The frus­trat­ing thing was they weren’t lis­ten­ing to me. I’d say it hurts and they told me I was fak­ing an in­jury be­cause they couldn’t fig­ure out what was wrong.”

Allred said she then was cut from the team by Wil­liams af­ter her sopho­more year with the ex­pla­na­tion she was not “good enough.”

“But he couldn’t take away my schol­ar­ship,” she said.

Allred said she con­sid­ered trans­fer­ring but couldn’t find a school that could of­fer the same kind of fi­nan­cial schol­ar­ship sup­port. And she was do­ing well in school at ECU and en­rolled in the school’s hon­ors col­lege.

“My coach (Wil­liams) said I was spend­ing too much time on my home­work,” Allred said. “He said, ‘I hate to say it but D-1 (Di­vi­sion I) means your sport comes first.’ ”

Allred de­cided to stay her last two years at ECU on the schol­ar­ship de­spite be­ing cut from the team, say­ing Wil­liams “put all his chips in and I called his bluff.” She was not al­lowed to use the golf fa­cil­i­ties avail­able to the golf team or the ath­letic aca­demic fa­cil­ity, and was shunned by most of her for­mer team­mates.

“It was very frus­trat­ing,” she said. “My whole life I pre­pared to be a D-1 golfer. I played golf since I was 2. All of a sud­den it was taken away from me.”

Asked to re­spond to the claims of Allred and her fa­ther, ECU is­sued a state­ment that said, in part:

“East Carolina Univer­sity has com­pleted a thor­ough re­view of the al­le­ga­tions made by Victoria Allred, for­mer women’s golf stu­dent-ath­lete who grad­u­ated from ECU in Spring 2018, against the univer­sity and its staff.

“Over sev­eral months ear­lier this year, the Of­fice of In­ter­nal Au­dit con­ducted a con­fi­den­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the al­le­ga­tions made by Ms. Allred and found no ev­i­dence that Ms. Allred was mistreated or that any ap­pli­ca­ble Univer­sity poli­cies, rules or reg­u­la­tions were vi­o­lated.”

Wil­liams, the golf coach, de­clined to com­ment.


Af­ter be­ing cut from the team, Allred went her own way, con­cen­trat­ing on her stud­ies, ma­jor­ing in math­e­mat­ics, eco­nom­ics and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence. She said she “maxed out” on aca­demic hours af­ter leav­ing the golf team. She also un­der­went coun­sel­ing on cam­pus, she said.

Allred said she filed a com­plaint with the school in May 2016. She said she con­tacted the NCAA and the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence, say­ing, “They didn’t do any­thing.. ... There’s no place for an ath­lete to go and have their voice heard. Mine was not heard.”

Allred had surgery this Jan­uary — ra­diofre­quency ab­la­tion (RFA), of­ten known as “burn­ing the nerves” — that eased the pain and she has been able to play golf again. She will at­tend Clem­son in the fall to be­gin doc­tor­ate work in eco­nom­ics.

“It’s hard not to feel hurt,” she said. “My goal was to win a team NCAA cham­pi­onship. My whole life re­volved around golf and I was known as ‘the golfer’ and then all of a sud­den that part of my iden­tity was stripped away over some­thing I had no con­trol over.”

Jay Allred, pub­lisher of Triad Golf To­day and Tri­an­gle Golf To­day, said he would like to see in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions held when there are se­ri­ous com­plaints made by ath­letes.

“It’s very neg­a­tive to­ward the univer­sity for this stuff to come out,” he said. “There’s an in­cen­tive for them to pro­tect the univer­sity. We have to have some­one out here pro­tect­ing the stu­dents. … You can’t say they are ‘stu­dents first’ and then not put them first.

“Where do you go to get some­body to en­force the univer­sity and ath­letic depart­ment poli­cies? The pro­tec­tions are not there.”

The ath­lete pro­tec­tions pro­vi­sion of Se­nate Bill 335 was en­dorsed by the ECU Stu­dent Govern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, which stressed “the need for an es­tab­lished, UNC sys­temwide sup­port struc­ture for our hard­work­ing and self-sac­ri­fic­ing stu­dent-ath­letes.”


The Allreds weren’t the only ones con­tact­ing leg­is­la­tors to sup­port the bill. Ni­cole and Arthur Yar­brough of Wil­low Spring urged pas­sage be­cause of the ex­pe­ri­ence of their son, Nick, as a mem­ber of the Camp­bell Univer­sity base­ball team.

In a let­ter to Sen. Chad Bare­foot, Ni­cole Yar­brough said Nick suf­fered a knee in­jury Oct. 1, 2016, and “had to beg for med­i­cal care.” She wrote: “Af­ter be­ing told for ap­prox­i­mately 3 weeks they did not have time to sched­ule an ap­point­ment for an MRI he fi­nally got an ap­point­ment 23 days later. It took 30 days to see a doc­tor.”

Yar­brough also wrote that three Camp­bell coaches “were be­rat­ing, threat­en­ing and were the cause of a lot of these in­juries.”

Yar­brough said the fam­ily was told the school at­tor­ney was in­ves­ti­gat­ing her son’s mat­ter. She said she sent a fol­lowup email to the Camp­bell pres­i­dent and ath­letic di­rec­tor but it was not an­swered.

Nick Yar­brough, 22, left the base­ball team be­cause of knee pain. Ni­cole Yar­brough wrote.

“These young ath­letes re­ally need an ad­vo­cate,” she wrote. “For­tu­nately for our fam­ily, we were fi­nan­cially able to pay for our son to at­tend school with­out debt. That is not the case for a lot of these fam­i­lies there­fore their par­ents are afraid to ad­vo­cate for them.”

Camp­bell of­fi­cial Haven Hot­tel said the univer­sity could not com­ment on Nick Yar­brough, cit­ing fed­eral stu­dent pri­vacy laws.


Victoria Allred golfed at East Carolina Univer­sity in 2015.

CHAR­LOTTE HAR­RIS chhar­[email protected]­sob­

Victoria Allred, a for­mer player for the golf team at East Carolina Univer­sity, met with Andy Per­rigo, leg­isla­tive as­sis­tant for Sen. War­ren Daniel, cen­ter, and Se­na­tor Jeff Tarte on June 20.

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