Former College of Charleston basketball player sues coaching staff

CHARLESTON, S.C. (News Release) — On Tuesday, April 26, McLeod Law Group filed suit on behalf of former College of Charleston Basketball player Zoe Wallis.

Zoe Wallis (img via CofC Sports)
Zoe Wallis (img via C of C Sports)

Prior to attending the College of Charleston, Ms. Wallis was a decorated high school basketball player. She was captain of her high school team, an All-Conference selection and a McDonald’s All-American nominee in 2014. She was heavily recruited out of high school and turned down offers from Saint Louis University, University of Nebraska-Omaha and Murray State in order to choose the College of Charleston after falling in love with the City of Charleston and its beauty following her recruiting visit.

The lawsuit stems from a team practice during August, 2014 when Ms. Wallis suffered an extreme heat stroke and fell unconscious. The incident caused serious organ damage including damage to her liver and kidneys. The Complaint alleges Coach Jackson and her assistants were grossly negligent in conducting a dangerous training session in complete disregard to Ms. Wallis’ health and well-being. Ms. Wallis was required to run a five mile timed run across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant and then back to Charleston for a team building and “mental toughness” exercise where team members were not allowed to stop running and all were required to finish the run. The Plaintiff collapsed during the mandatory bridge run after multiple attempts to inform the coaches she was having trouble and needed to stop.

The Complaint further alleges that Coach Jackson was indifferent to Ms. Wallis’ health and yelled that the Plaintiff was weak and she should crawl to the finish line; as the Plaintiff was unresponsive, Jackson ordered the players to pick her up

Women's Basketball Coach Candice Jackson
Women’s Basketball Coach Candice Jackson (img via C of C Sports)

and carry her over the finish line. Another coach physically put her hands on the Plaintiff and pushed her from behind causing the Plaintiff to fall again to the ground. Plaintiff was in fact suffering from severe hyperthermia and had lost consciousness, a condition that could lead to death. No one called 911 and no one administered proper care to the Plaintiff; instead, at 6’3”, she was stuffed in the back seat of a hot car and driven to a hospital where she was admitted to the ER with an internal body temperature of 104.6 degrees, was found to be tachycardic with a heart rate of 159, and was suffering severe metabolic acidosis, acute renal failure, and electrolyte abnormalities. Plaintiff had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and remained in the hospital for two days before being released with physical restrictions.

The Plaintiff eventually had to give up her dream of playing college basketball and withdrew from the team in 2015 due to the lasting mental and physical effects of the August 2014 incident. The Complaint further alleges that in response to her withdrawal from the team, the College of Charleston revoked her scholarship in violation of NCAA rules as well as CofC’s own Grant-in-Aid Contract. NCAA regulations forbid a player’s scholarship from being revoked when an injury is suffered due to participation in that player’s athletics at the College. Ms. Wallis now attends a local community college back home in the state of Missouri since finding out that her scholarship was being pulled shortly before returning for the spring semester this year.

Attorney W. Mullins McLeod, Jr., lead counsel for Ms. Wallis stated, “Zoe is determined to stand up for herself and other student athletes. I hope this lawsuit enables her to return to the College of Charleston and bring reform to the Women’s basketball program at the College.”

After the lawsuit was filed, attorney Jason Setchen, whose Miami, Florida based law firm represented the Plaintiff through her internal NCAA Administrative Appeal at the College, stated, “I am disappointed with how the coaches, medical staff, Athletic Department and the College handled this from the beginning and I have to think this all could have been easily avoidable.”

The Plaintiff, Zoe Wallis, stated, “I really miss my Charleston family and I wake up each day wishing I was still at the College and able to play basketball again. I paid a very heavy price to be a part of CofC’s Women’s Basketball Team and the Coach’s actions took away my basketball but she shouldn’t be able to take away my education.”

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