HOUSTON – The University of Houston has ordered an internal review of policies and processes less than 24 hours after a KPRC2 report detailed a “punishment workout” that left a women’s soccer player in a hospital for nearly five days.
The university claims the KPRC2 report was the first time it heard “specific details” of the workout in question.
The punishment workout in question happened in February 2018.
The workout landed a player in the hospital with the potentially deadly medical condition rhabdomyolysis also known as rhabdo.
A player told Channel 2 Investigates the entire team was punished after two teammates were accused of taking food designated for the football team.
The university said that based on the findings of a joint internal review by two departments, "each investigative unit is directed to take swift action and make immediate recommendations to ensure the health and well-being of UH student-athletes."
Here is the full statement from the University of Houston:
“A media interview of a young woman purported to be a University of Houston student-athlete has brought to light specific details of an event involving the UH women’s soccer program that were previously unknown to the University. The University’s knowledge of this information has triggered a joint review by UH System Audit and UH Compliance of our compliance with processes and policies. Based on their respective findings, each investigative unit is directed to take swift action and make immediate recommendations to ensure the health and wellbeing of UH student-athletes. The University will reserve any further comment on this matter until the review is complete.”
On April 18, Channel 2 Investigates clearly detailed head coach Diego Bocanegra admitting that his program relied on “physical punishment” in an email provided by the university.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Dejuena Chizer raised no red flags, signing off on Bocanegra’s email from last November as telling him: "Diego, This is good. Thanks."
On Feb. 1, Channel 2 Investigates exposed that more than a dozen members of the women’s soccer program were sent to the emergency room and diagnosed with rhabdo following a strenuous workout.
Experts call for accountability
Experts said there are dangers during grueling workout sessions.
"I've never heard of a punishment like that," Ramogi Huma said.
Huma is the executive director of the National College Players Association, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting collegiate athletes.
"There is no defense that I think the University of Houston can put forward to explain what happened," Huma said. "If you and I were on the street and we saw someone working a horse to death and we call the police, they would actually come and arrest that person, and that horse, really, in a sense, has more protections than these college athletes."
Nearly 20 years ago, Huma played college football at the Rose Bowl in California when his program, the University of California, Los Angeles, was highly ranked.
"I played football at UCLA. I never had a workout like that, and we worked hard," Huma said. "I don't think UH has a leg to stand on."
Attorney speaks out
Respected Los Angeles attorney Brian Panish has a daughter who played collegiate soccer. He said he seriously questions the actions of UH coaches.
"What are they gaining by doing this other than punishment? Did that make the team better? Did that help these players?" Panish said.
Panish understands the dangers of strenuous workouts. Three years ago, he helped settle a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of Ted Agu.
"His nickname was 'Pre-Med Ted,'" Panish said.
Agu was a football player at the University of California, Berkeley, who died after a demanding workout.
Panish says UH may have legal troubles as a result of what happened to the women's soccer team.
How exposed is the school legally?
"I think there is a huge exposure," Panish said. "The school's got to make this right. They got to clean house. They can't let this happen again. They're risking their ... university."