Concordia University’s basketball team is making headlines not for its excellent plays but for a grueling Dec. 31 practice that led to the hospitalization of six players. The university has temporarily removed Steve Kollar as head coach.
“Appropriate employment actions regarding head coach Steve Kollar have been taken pending the outcome of the investigation,” said Concordia spokesperson Eric Matanyi. “He remains employed by the university.”
Assistant men’s basketball coach Rashaan Surles has assumed an acting head coach position. Surles was named assistant coach last November.
The six players were admitted to Illinois hospitals between Jan. 2 and Jan. 4. All have since been released and are expected to make a full recovery, according to Matanyi.
Several media outlets have reported that players were asked to go to the emergency room if they were experiencing symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening syndrome that can be caused by serious physical exertion.
Rhabdomyolysis is caused by damaged muscle tissue releasing proteins and electrolytes into the blood, which can hurt the heart and kidneys, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition can cause permanent disability and death.
In a letter sent Thursday to parents, athletics director Pete Gnan called the New Year’s Eve practice “particularly high-intensity, collegiate-level circuit training.” The letter states that the athletic training team is evaluating the health of the players on an ongoing basis.
The practice is believed by some to be a punitive measure taken against the team after several players missed curfew during a late December trip to California, where the team played two games.
“It has been alleged by some that the intensity and difficulty of Saturday’s practice was a direct consequence of the broken curfew earlier in the week,” Gnan reportedly wrote in the letter. “The university continues to look into the matter and is also working to determine all factors that contributed to the student hospitalizations.”
While the university is conducting an internal investigation, it has not yet been determined whether the intensity of the practice was a direct consequence of players breaking curfew.
The university does not anticipate needing the involvement of the police department in its investigation as “no criminal activitiy has been alleged or taken place,” Matanyi said. River Forest Police Chief O’Shea confirmed no victims or interested parties have come forward.
“If it is determined a criminal investigation is warranted, we will also look at if outside county, state, or federal agencies should be involved,” O’Shea said.
It is unclear when the team will resume playing. The regular season games scheduled for Jan. 3, Jan. 7 and Jan. 10 were postponed and the basketball team will not be playing in the Jan. 14 game against Marian University. Matanyi said it has not been determined whether those games will be rescheduled or made up in the future.