TAMPA — USF will not renew the contract of associate head coach Tom Herrion, who is no longer with the men’s basketball program after an independent review concluded he committed misconduct by making inappropriate comments to players.
However, the review concluded the program did not have a hostile or problematic culture as it relates to the issue of race, despite at least nine players ― many of them Black — entering the NCAA transfer portal since the end of the American Athletic Conference tournament in March.
“It is highly disappointing that the review confirmed isolated actions involving Coach Herrion’s interactions with student-athletes that are simply unacceptable,” USF Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said in a release issued Tuesday by USF Athletics.
Seventeen interviews of players, coaches and current and former staff members conducted by the firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC, as well as a review of records and university policies, found there was no evidence head coach Brian Gregory or his staff “failed to address a known racial problem.” The leadership of the program is “proactive and effective in addressing racial and social justice issues,” the review stated.
“I was pleased to see the report’s findings that head coach Brian Gregory and our administration are, and have been, operating in accordance with the University of South Florida’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and that our processes for ensuring those commitments are upheld,” Kelly said in the statement.
“Overall, the review reaffirms my belief in Coach Gregory’s leadership of our program. Moving forward, our entire athletic department will continue to be dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment that allows every student-athlete to thrive.”
Herrion, 53, arrived at USF when Gregory was hired in 2017. His 30-plus-year college coaching career includes four seasons as head coach at Marshall (2010-14) and College of Charleston (2002-06).
Four comments by Herrion from 2018-20 alleged to be racially insensitive were reviewed by investigators. They included a comment made to a player during a practice in the 2018-19 season that he needed to “stop swinging on the rim like a monkey.” That statement was substantiated by the investigation but did not violate USF policy, the report said.
One was a question made prior to a workout in the summer of 2020, when Herrion is alleged to have asked a player wearing a sweatshirt supporting historically Black colleges and universities, “What’s up with that Black (expletive)? I thought you were (redacted).”
That comment was substantiated by the investigation and violated USF’s misconduct policy but did not run afoul of the diversity and equal opportunity policy.
During the 2020-21 season, Herrion is alleged to have asked a player about his hairstyle, “What’s up with the jailhouse braids?” The report said investigators were unable to substantiate that comment.
Finally, Herrion told a player during a practice drill in 2020-21 to move faster, “like the police are chasing you.” This statement also violated the misconduct policy, the report said. The player Herrion was addressing had a previous encounter with police.
Gregory confirmed that Herrion “apologized to the team” but did not repeat the comment. Investigators say Herrion admitted to saying it, and multiple players heard it.
The rash of transfers from USF’s men’s basketball program occurred for a number of reasons, the report said. Three were graduating seniors. Only two stated that Herrion’s comments, racial issues within the men’s basketball program or mistreatment by the coaching staff played a role in their decision to transfer.
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