C?of?C coach clings to job

College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik heads to the dressing room at the half against The Citadel at TD Arena on Thursday Jan. 24, 2013. (Wade Spees/postandcourier.com)

Doug Wojcik was on the verge of being fired as College of Charleston basketball coach Monday and still might lose his job for alleged verbal abuse of his players, The Post and Courier has learned.

After meeting with current players for more than an hour Monday afternoon, athletic director Joe Hull told team members he was going to fire Wojcik.

Hull was overruled by then-school President George Benson later in the day.

Benson recommended that Wojcik be suspended without pay for the month of August and undergo counseling, a source confirmed. The loss of a month's pay for Wojcik would be more than $33,000.

Players met with Glenn McConnell, who took over as the school's president Tuesday, and at least most of them insisted on Wojcik's dismissal, but no resolution was reached.

"These players will not play for (Wojcik)," a parent of a current player said. "No way."

Hull and Wojcik declined to comment Wednesday, and attempts to reach Benson through college officials were unsuccessful.

Sources in the school's athletic department confirmed that Wojcik has been the subject of a six-month investigation that included interviews with players, assistant coaches, athletic department staffers and boosters after allegations of verbal abuse came to the attention of the school's administration. The source said the school completed its investigation last week and issued a 100-page report on the allegations.

Wojcik, 50, is 39-28 in two seasons as the Cougars' head coach. Wojcik was hired in April 2012 after getting fired from Tulsa, where he compiled a 140-92 record and left as the school's winningest coach.

Wojcik, who played at the U.S. Naval Academy alongside Hall of Famer David Robinson, replaced Bobby Cremins, whose easygoing style made him a favorite among players.

Wojcik has three years remaining on a five-year contract that pays him more than $400,000 per season.

Firing Wojcik could cost the Cougars more than $1.2 million if the administration cannot find cause for termination.

"The report doesn't shine a favorable light on Doug, but I'm not sure there's cause to fire him," a senior athletic administration official said. "If the administration can't find cause, it's going to cost them a lot of money to fire (Wojcik)."

The College of Charleston fired former basketball coach Tom Herrion in 2006 with four years remaining on his contract and ended up paying him $787,000 in a buyout settlement.

The investigation began when former and current players, which included Trent Wiedeman and Bart Benton, complained to the administration about Wojcik's outbursts in the locker room at halftime and during games, a source confirmed. Wiedeman transferred to Georgia Southern after the 2012-13 season, while Benton graduated after Wojcik's first season as the Cougars' head coach.

On Benton's Twitter account, the former walk-on said, "Doug Wojcik needs to go. Plain and simple."

In the report, former and current players said that Wojcik's rants became "personal" and "went over the line" of normal criticism from a coach.

Two current players, who did not want to be identified, said that while they couldn't defend all of Wojcik's comments, the situation isn't as bad as many are making it out to be.

"Did he cross the line? Yeah, he crossed the line with some guys, especially his first season," the player said. "He made things personal with a couple of guys. He challenged their manhood and no one wants to be challenged like that. He never went after me like that. Sure, he was hard on me, but he didn't make things personal like he did with some of the guys. I didn't have a problem with the way he treated me."

Both players said they were not sure they'd return to play for the Cougars next season if Wojcik was not in charge.

"I think we're going to win a championship with him," the second player said. "Is he demanding? Yeah. He wants what is best for us and for the team. He's already made me a better player. If he's not here next year, I don't think I'd come back. He's going to get us to where we need to be. We're already pretty close right now."

The players said while it'll be difficult to mend fences and soothe hurt feelings, it can be done if Wojcik returns next season.

"I think it'll be the big white elephant in the room at first, but eventually we'll all come together and be a team again," the player said. "We're a pretty strong group."

A senior athletic administration official doesn't know if the situation is salvageable between Wojcik and the players.

"I'm not sure there's going to be a lot of trust on either side," the source said. "Are the players going to trust coach Wojcik and can he trust them anymore? I just don't know the answer to that."