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Hundreds of emails provide new details on suspension of CCU cheerleaders

The stack of documents provided by CCU through our FOIA request (Source: WMBF News) The stack of documents provided by CCU through our FOIA request (Source: WMBF News)
Profile image for the @CCUCheer4L Twitter account. (Source: Twitter) Profile image for the @CCUCheer4L Twitter account. (Source: Twitter)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Over six weeks after breaking the news that the Coastal Carolina University cheerleading team was suspended over allegations of misconduct, the school has provided hundreds of pages of emails and documents that provide new details on this situation.

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Among topics and details brought to light in the 300 pages of documents provided to WMBF News through a Freedom of Information Act request are:

-How the university initially reacted to an anonymous letter sent to school’s president, alleging that team members were involved in prostitution, underage drinking, and academic misconduct.

-The investigation into who sent the anonymous letter and the allegations raised by it.

-Issues with the cheerleading team raised by a coach before the anonymous letter was sent.

-Reactions from parents, students and peers after the salacious allegations were brought to light, and how President David DeCenzo responded to them.

-Dozens of questions and requests for information from local and national news sources.

Below is a timeline of events regarding the situation involving the CCU cheerleaders:

-Feb. 12, 8:54 a.m. - Cheerleading coach Marla Sage to athletic director Matt Hogue: It’s time to start setting up practice time and space for March for dance and cheer. What do you want me to do with cheer? I know we had talked about them not using athletic facilities once they are no longer an athletic team. Does that start after basketball season ends or after nationals? I am also wanting to know this for my own time scheduling as well. If they aren’t athletics after the tournament, then I would prefer not to have to have in charge of them or to work with them anymore, seeing that 90 percent of them don’t listen to be anyway.

-Feb. 13 - Hogue to Sage, copying Alex Souza, director of game day experience and promotions: I will have a conversation with Kelly to determine if she or another volunteer can take them to the finish line of competitive cheer. The discontinued use of our resources will be more of a phase-in process. The plan will be to phase out after the competition.

-Feb. 22 - Sage emails a document to Hogue, outlining reasons why the team should not go to nationals, including the fact they haven’t raised enough money and that they’re not dedicated enough

-March 13 - Erin McDonald, assistant dean of student conduct, is sent an email to the dean of students saying she had been asked to be in a meeting with the president at 4 p.m. that day, after the university had received an anonymous letter about the cheerleading team.

-March 14, 8:12 a.m. - Michelyn Pylilo, a CCU investigator, emails Souza: “I was wondering if you have those pictures of the cheerleaders. I would like to check a few dating websites. Also, I may have a lead on who sent the letter.”

-March 14, 9:49 a.m. - Souza contacts website and asks to remove pictures of four cheerleaders saying, “We had some turnover I neglected to change.”

-March 14, 9:53 a.m. - Souza send screenshots of most of the girls back to Pylilo

-March 17 - Pylilo asks Sage to look at a picture of the person who mailed the letters and ask if she is free to help identify the person in the picture.

-March 19, 5:16 p.m. - Sage emails Denise Perez, CCU’s Title IX coordinator, and said “I think I know who may have sent the letter,” indicating it to be a former member of the cheerleading squad

-March 20 - Sage to Pylilo: “I got some information from the dance team girls over the weekend about her asking them what I would do if I knew the cheerleaders were involved in really bad stuff.”

-March 21 - Walter Goffigan, associate director for athletic academic services, sent a list of cheerleaders who hadn’t completed their study hall hours to Sage

-March 24 - A cash advance for the cheerleading team to travel to Daytona, Fla. on April 5 for cheer competition

-March 27 - Pylilo to Perez, 4:01 p.m.: “I might be getting closer to the website. I have an undercover looking into a lead. I’ll let you know more tomorrow.”

-March 28 - Hogue to Sage, Kelly Moore (assistant director of developments for the Coastal Athletic Foundation) and Souza, asking for “information, documents that have the cheer itinerary for the competition trip. Also a copy of team rules. I am discussing travel chaperon options with Travis Overton, along with code of conduct provisions/agreement for this trip specifically.”

-March 30, 9:06 a.m. - Nancy Y. Reeder, administrative assistant for Adkins Field House, writes, “Please cancel the trip for cheerleaders, April 4-8.”

-March 30, 9:03 a.m. - Souza to website administrator asking that cheerleading pictures and pages be removed from school’s main spirit page. Leave just Chauncey and dance team.

-March 30, 1:28 p.m. - Associate content producer responded, stating that all pages related to the CCU cheerleading team now redirect to the main spirit page.

-April 3 - Parent emails CCU President David DeCenzo. Decenzo forwards email to two lawyers in the office of university counsel and the vice president of student rights and responsibilities, asking how he should respond.

-May 1 - Pylilo to Sage: “I reached out to Amy Lawrence and asked her to make sure that the girls that she is representing return their equipment, otherwise their transfers or graduation can be held up.”

Also in the CCU documents were letters from outraged parents, as well as cheerleaders who said they were being harassed.

One parent wrote to the school and said:  

My daughter was asked to attend a meeting, where she was blindsided with negative allegations that pertained to a subset of the team she is on, yet she has been unfairly grouped alongside that subset.

Another parent wrote:

It is unbelievable that the entire squad was suspended indefinitely based on an anonymous letter. 

Several parents expressed frustration that no one was defending the girls. One parent wrote:

No adults are protecting the innocent students who happen to cheer for your school and have gone out of their way to represent Coastal in a positive way. 

Cheerleaders also wrote to their teachers saying they are being emotionally abused. One student wrote: 

I'm sure you have seen all over the news CCU cheerleading. I am a CCU cheerleader and I am being emotionally affected by the news, harassment on campus and social media. I have not been able to function accordingly.

Another cheerleader wrote:

Late tonight, the cheer team received a text from someone saying some very upsetting things. I have been emotionally OK and been able to go to class, but that text just hit extremely hard. I will not be able to go to class tomorrow. During class period, me as well as several other cheerleaders will be meeting with Dean Overton.

Teachers even expressed their concern to CCU investigators. A professor wrote:

One of my students, a cheerleader, pointed out that when several football players are under investigation, the entire team is not prohibited from competing. This seems unfair.

Related Stories:

View a package of documents related to the investigation released by the university on April 6:

Attorney responds to CCU report that alleges cheerleaders operated escort service

View the original story that WMBF News broke on March 30 here:

CCU cheerleading team suspended; cheerleader says anonymous letter alleged prostitution, misconduct

View the latest official update from the university, stating that the team will be in place in the fall:

CCU cheer team will be in place before football season resumes, official says

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