When Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, a basketball Hall of Famer and former MVP of the defunct Houston Comets, suddenly retired from coaching at Texas Southern last month it seemed like a fitting ending to a storied basketball career.
But according to a bombshell report by the sports news website The Athletic, Cooper-Dyke’s departure may have been more forced than voluntary as disturbing details were coming out about her alleged abusive treatment of student-athletes during her two stints at TSU along with stops at UNC-Wilmington and her alma mater USC.
Officials at TSU were about to begin a Title IX investigation into the allegations when Cooper-Dyke suddenly retired this spring, according to The Athletic.
The report is filled with graphic and disturbing details of abusive sexual comments made to student-athletes entrusted in her care, and disrespectful and degrading treatment Cooper-Dyke allegedly displayed toward some of her players at all three stops.
Some of the things she is accused of saying to players may have once been acceptable but as society has evolved and the effects of mental abuse can have on individuals are better understood, such behavior is no longer acceptable.
Cooper-Dyke, who was twice employed at TSU during two separate stints and also spent five years at Prairie View A&M, is accused of saying about one of her players who was known to have been diagnosed with mental issues that “she would be all right, she just needs some d–k, that’s all.” She also referred to that same player as a “sorry a-s virgin,” according to The Athletic, which conducted an open records search from her tenures at TSU.
The Athletic, over several months, talked with 25 people, including former players and staff at all of the places where Cooper-Dyke coached who were able to give similar accounts of her behavior. She openly made fun of her players’ sex lives, engaged in demeaning name-calling and doled out harsh punishments for those who did not meet her standards.
According to The Athletic story, Cooper-Dyke once came up behind a player while she was doing squats in the weight room and said, “Ooh, your hips are big, you got a fat a-s and I can tell you like to ride some d–k.”
In another instance, Cooper-Dyke was said to have shamed a player about her weight to the point that the player became despondent and would not eat in front of Cooper-Dyke.
Investigators for the Title IX report were told that during her first stint at TSU from 2012-13 that Cooper-Dyke got down in front of one of her male assistants during practice and mimicked giving him fellatio, and on another occasion told a player that her slow running during a drill was because she was “getting d–ked down” all the time.
Cooper-Dyke also allegedly referred to some of her players as “b–ch,” “pu–y,” “Black-a-s child,” and “dumba-s.”
There were similar accounts of incidents at UNC Wilmington and USC. School administrators also seemed to enable her behavior at times, even siding with her decisions to revoke scholarships of players she claimed had behavior issues.
Following an investigation by TSU, the school implemented a limited contact order between Cooper-Dyke and the team back in January, disallowing one-on-one meetings and contact through phones and emails. Weeks later that order was escalated to contact outside of games and practices.
TSU athletic director Kevin Granger declined to talk to The Defender about the allegations against Cooper-Dyke because it’s considered a personnel matter, instead referring to the brief comment the University released concerning the matter. An introductory press conference for new TSU women’s basketball coach Vernette Skeete set for last Thursday was abruptly canceled with no explanation.
“Given the confidential nature of Title IX and personnel matters, the University is unable to comment,” the statement reads. “Please be assured that the University takes any issues that impact the safety and health of our students, faculty and staff seriously to ensure a learning environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”
Cooper-Dyke did not respond to text messages or phone calls from The Defender.
The allegations bring into question whether Cooper-Dyke was able to use her legendary status and position of power to intimidate and treat players and assistant coaches with disrespect.
Cooper-Dyke was able to continue to land jobs despite complaints on her record and SWAC commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland twice hired her for head coaching positions at PVAMU and TSU when he was athletic director at each school.
“Every time something comes across my Instagram, someone celebrating her, I want to scream,” Thaddesia Southall, who played for Cooper-Dyke at USC in 2013-14, said to The Athletic. “She does not stand for what the WNBA represents. She does not stand for what they are trying to promote. This is a woman who demeaned us, who talked to us like we were not human. She made me hate basketball, and no one did anything to stop her.”