College Sports

Who’s the bully? Ex-UNCC tennis player accused of bullying says coach harassed team

A former UNC Charlotte varsity tennis player has sued the school and tennis coach Jeremy Feldman, claiming he was kicked off the team after the coach fabricated an accusation of the player bullying a teammate.

In his complaint, William “Scotty” Cameron says Feldman was the actual bully, and that the coach made up the allegation against him to free up scholarship money and to hide his improper behavior, which included joking about having sex with the mother of one of his players.

Cameron says that when he and his teammates complained about Feldman, university officials pressured the players to withdraw their accusations in fear that they might become public.

Feldman, who is in his third season at Charlotte, was not available for comment this week. He is a former assistant coach at Wake Forest and played collegiately at Cornell.

A UNCC spokesperson said Tuesday that the university “is aware of the situation and reserves comment during ongoing litigation.”

Cameron’s complaint, filed Friday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, says he was dismissed from the team and lost his scholarship in 2018 after Feldman falsely accused him of bullying teammate Michael Bass.

Cameron says the bullying never occurred, and that Bass and he remain friends. Last April, both he and Bass were among the varsity tennis players who met with school officials after Cameron’s suspension to say Feldman’s allegations were unfounded and to complain about the coach’s behavior, which included multiple highly sexualized comments about the mother of one of his players, the lawsuit says.

In October 2017, a group of tennis players, which did not include Cameron, also went to the university to report Feldman’s behavior and training methods, the lawsuit says. Those complaints focused on what the suit describes as the coach’s inappropriate comments along with injuries the players suffered under Feldman’s watch.

Cameron’s complaint also names university Chancellor Phil Dubois, athletics director Mike Hill and several other athletics department officials as co-defendants. They, the school and Feldman are accused of negligence, defamation, due-process violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and breach of contract. Cameron has asked for a jury trial and damages in excess of $75,000.

“There was significant harm done to his reputation and much emotional harm done from the mismatch in power between coaches and players,” said Sean Wagner, Cameron’s attorney. “It’s hard to put a (financial) number on ruining someone’s college tennis career. We’re interested mainly in clearing his name and having justice done.”

In July, Cameron filed a similar legal action in U.S. District Court in Charlotte. The federal case was dismissed in November at Cameron’s request.

The new 30-page document describes a relationship between Feldman and Cameron that quickly deteriorated after Cameron transferred from the University of South Carolina and enrolled at UNCC in August 2017.

According to the lawsuit, Feldman, compelled Cameron to run a mile during a preseason tennis practice despite Cameron having a sore knee. Although the run aggravated Cameron’s injury, Feldman continued to have Cameron participate in practice and weight-training sessions, the lawsuit says.

Those sessions, according to the lawsuit, were under Feldman’s supervision, not the the school’s athletic trainer. During one weight-lifting exercise supervised by Feldman, a weight bar landed on Cameron’s back, injuring him, the lawsuit says.

The bullying allegation arose during an “end-of-semester” meeting in November 2017 when Feldman told Cameron of “second-hand reports of personality issues” that had arisen between Cameron and Bass, the complaint says.

Feldman’s allegation, according to the complaint, surprised Cameron, who said he wasn’t aware of any problems between him and Bass. Feldman told Cameron to “just get along.”

On March 8, 2018, according to the lawsuit, Feldman told Cameron he was suspended from the team for continued bullying of Bass, behavior the coach said had been reported by other team members. The lawsuit alleges that Cameron’s teammates never made those accusations, and that Feldman suspended Cameron “to free up scholarship funds for potential new recruits.”

After the suspension, the lawsuit says, Cameron, Bass and other members of the tennis team met with UNCC executive director of human resources Jeanne Madorin and Alex Thompkins, the university’s Title IX case administrator. The players outlined Feldman’s alleged pattern of bullying and misbehavior, including his making inappropriate sexual and religiously offensive remarks to the players, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, UNCC officials declined to intervene, saying Cameron had been suspended because his relationship with Feldman was “irretrievably broken.”

The current team roster indicates that Bass is no longer on the team.

In failing to discipline Feldman, the lawsuit claims that UNCC did not follow its own anti-bullying policy which includes “reducing the effects of violence on victims and the University community as well as holding perpetrators of violence accountable for their actions.”

The allegations are at least the third recent high-profile incidents involving the behavior of UNCC athletes or coaches.

Last year, former Charlotte quarterback Kevin Olsen was found not guilty of raping his girlfriend, criminal accusations that had earlier led to his removal from both the football team and the school.

In 2015, five 49ers baseball players were dismissed from the team for hazing.

“The University stands firm in its resolve that there is no place for hazing, bullying or misconduct at UNC Charlotte,” Dubois said in a statement following the baseball incident.

After Cameron was removed from the tennis team, he was told on at least two occasions that his scholarship would be honored, the lawsuit says. After he enrolled in classes for the Fall 2018 semester, according to the complaint, the UNCC bursar’s office informed him that the scholarship money was not available.

According to the lawsuit, a school official had earlier told Cameron that if his scholarship was revoked for any reason, UNCC would be liable “for failing to provide due process of law.”

David Scott: @davidscott14