Former College of Charleston women’s basketball player Zoe Wallis is suing the school, alleging gross negligence on the part of head coach Candice Jackson and her staff.
The suit alleges that Wallis, a 6-3 center from Chesterfield, Missouri, suffered “serious organ damage, including damage to her liver and kidneys” during a team practice in August 2014. The suit says Wallis was forced to perform a five-mile timed run across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from Charleston to Mount Pleasant and back. She collapsed during the run after “multiple attempts” to tell the coaches she was having trouble and needed to stop, the suit says.
The suit also alleges that Jackson yelled to Wallis that she was weak and should crawl to the finish line, and that when Wallis was unresponsive, Jackson ordered players to carry her over the finish line. Instead of calling 911, Wallis was put into the back seat of a “hot car” and driven to a hospital, where she was found to be suffering from severe metabolic acidosis, acute renal failure and electrolyte abnormalities. She was admitted to intensive care and remained in the hospital for two days.
Wallis had her scholarship revoked, which the suit alleges is a violation of NCAA rules. She is seeking damages, the restoration of her scholarship and readmission to the College of Charleston.
“I really miss my Charleston family and I wake up every day wishing I was still at the College and able to play basketball again,” Wallis said in a statement. “I paid a very heavy price to be a part of C of C’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.”
Jackson has compiled a 16-45 mark in two years with the Cougars. The Cougars were 11-20 overall this past season with a 5-13 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Wallis, a freshman during the 2014-15 season, played in 19 games that year, averaging .8 points and .5 rebounds a game.
The suit alleges that assistant coaches knew that Wallis suffered from asthma and that the school’s athletic trainers had one of Wallis’ albuterol inhalers in a treatment kit in case of an attack.
Wallis’ attorney, Mullins McLeod Jr., said his client 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,” McLeod said.
Wallis, who now attends a community college in Missouri, went through an internal administrative appeal at the College after finding out her scholarship had been pulled.
“I am disappointed with how the coaches, medical staff, athletic department and the College handled this from the beginning,” said attorney Jason Setchen, who represented Wallis in her appeal. “I have to think this all could have been easily avoidable.”
Jackson and College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.
Andrew Miller contributed to this story.