UW ousts softball coach over scandal
Seattle Times staff reporters
Teresa Wilson, who built the University of Washington's softball program into a national powerhouse, has lost her job as a result of a widening scandal over the drug-dispensing practices of a team doctor she favored.
"This is the most shocking thing short of a death that's ever happened to me," an emotional Wilson said last night from her mother's home in Missouri. "Obviously, it's sad that anyone would think that it's necessary or that it would come to this. I'm in disbelief."
Wilson, 41, declined to say what she was told by the university. She did say that she was considering hiring an attorney.
"I now have my reputation and career to think about," she said. "I'm obviously going to have to talk to people smarter than I am about these sorts of things."
A high-placed source at the University of Washington confirmed that Wilson and the university have been negotiating the terms of her release. An announcement was to be made as early as tomorrow, the source said.
Wilson, whose departure comes amid a tumultuous year for the UW athletic program, is the second Huskies coach to be ousted this year. Rick Neuheisel was fired as football coach in June for gambling and lying to NCAA investigators.
Wilson, in her 11th season as softball coach, has been a stalwart defender of Dr. William Scheyer, the former softball team physician whose license was suspended by state health investigators in October. An investigation showed he had been improperly prescribing and dispensing large quantities of narcotics, tranquilizers and other prescription drugs to softball players in recent years.
The decision for Wilson to leave resulted from an internal UW investigation into Scheyer's dealings with the softball team, the source said. The Washington State Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration, under the guidance of the U.S. Attorney's Office, opened a criminal investigation into the allegations.
University officials had hoped to complete the internal investigation by the end of the year, in part so they could decide Wilson's future well before the softball team opens its season Feb. 6 at a tournament in Mayfair Park, Calif.
But the investigation is continuing and won't be completed until after the beginning of the new year, a UW source said.
Attempts to contact Jim Daves, spokesman for the UW Athletic Department, were not successful. Athletic director Barbara Hedges, who hired Wilson and supported the softball team with scholarships and a generous budget, could not be reached for comment last night.
Wilson has defended Scheyer and has repeatedly questioned allegations that earned him the nicknames "Dr. Feel Good" and "Pill Bill" among some athletes and trainers. At Wilson's insistence, softball remained the only sport with an outside team physician. Since 1999, the student-athletes in all other UW sports have been treated by doctors from the University of Washington Medical Center.
In 2001, when other team doctors raised concerns about the source of drugs in the UW training rooms and the quality of care being given softball players, assistant athletic director Dave Burton attempted to fire Scheyer. Wilson intervened with Hedges, and Scheyer was allowed to come back as the team's "consulting physician."
The state's Medical Quality Assurance Commission investigation revealed at least one softball player who had to undergo treatment for addiction and a trainer who routinely obtained prescriptions for narcotics under Scheyer's name. Scheyer, the investigation showed, had accounts set up at several outside pharmacies so he could bypass the system the school had in place for tracking drug prescriptions given to student athletes.
Scheyer reportedly handed out pills to students in envelopes and out of his pockets, sometimes without examining the students or charting the treatment in their medical records.
Scheyer, in his statement to investigators from the Board of Pharmacy, said a female softball team coach — the name is deleted from the transcript — "always knew" which players were being given drugs. He denied, however, that his medical decision on a player's ability to take the field could be overridden by the coach.
Several softball players were questioned during that investigation, which began last April. One softball player described how she was given tranquilizers and painkillers before and during games so she could play injured. Another said she felt the object of the sports-medicine program was to get players on the field and that it did not always act in their best interests.
That player also said that some athletes were given medications so they could play, but that it was to remain "hush-hush."
Wilson was one of the first hires for Hedges when she took over as the UW athletic director in 1991. Hedges made softball a full-scholarship sport and built a $3 million softball park on the UW's lower campus.
Wilson, in turn, made softball into a showcase program. The team's first official game was a win over 11th-ranked Michigan. The team has qualified for postseason play for 10 straight years, was ranked No. 1 in 1996 and reached the College World Series six times, playing in the title games in '96 and '99.
Wilson has accumulated an overall record with the Huskies of 532-198-1. Her program has churned out 16 All-Americans.
In 2001, she was selected to be among the pool of national coaches for the USA Softball women's team.
She came to the University of Washington in 1992 after coaching at Minnesota and Oregon. Wilson was an All-American pitcher at Missouri and became the first woman to both play and coach in softball's College World Series.
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