Report: Brown Band protests coach Sarah Behn, refuses to play at women’s basketball games

The Brown University Band has refused to play at any more women’s basketball home games for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, according to a statement released by the organization on February 18 on its Facebook page.  According to the letter, the decision was made due to “recent allegations regarding the conduct of Head Coach Sarah Behn.”

The story was first reported by the Brown Daily Herald on February 24.

A February 13 post on Dear Bluneo, a Brown student-run Facebook page that solicits and posts anonymous submissions, made a series of unsubstantiated allegations against the coach, including emotional abuse, racism and weight-shaming.  This post received supportive comments and “likes” from former Brown players including Lames ElGammel, Abby O’Keefe and Kathleen Ryan.

The Brown Daily Herald noted that it had spoken with seven former players last year, who “alleged that Behn repeatedly made remarks about players’ weights, used language that they described as vulgar and singled out players for criticism.”  At the time, the paper’s leadership decided additional reporting was necessary before publication.

Band President Elizabeth Rogan and Vice President Charlie Gagnon informed the paper that the decision to stay away from the games was decided by the group’s Executive Board following the publication of the post and concerns brought by several band members.

The band “wholeheartedly (supports) the female athletes on the women’s basketball team,” Rogan told the Herald.  “Our priority is supporting them, but we did not feel like we could do that in the most productive way by continuing to attend their games.”

Gagnon echoed Rogan’s views, telling the paper, “We decided to not continue to attend games because we felt like the things we were hearing about the women’s basketball team would make continuing to attend those games a negative statement, and one that was contrary to the band’s values.”

An official with the Brown Band declined to provide any additional information, when questioned by Ivy Hoops Online.

Coach Behn emailed a response to the Herald, denying all accusations and stating that the Band’s boycott “only hurts our dedicated student-athletes who continue to represent Brown to the best of their abilities.”

Four current and former players, including 2015 graduate Sophie Bikofsky, 2019 graduate Erika Steeves and sophomore Maddie Mullins wrote to the paper in support of Coach Behn.

ElGammel, O’Keefe and a third former player reportedly addressed the coach’s behavior with Carolan Norris, Senior Associate Director of Athletics – Student-Athlete Services.  According to the three, their conversations with Ms. Norris, the chief adviser for non-academic student-athlete issues, did not result in any changes.

When reached for comment by the Herald,  Norris stated that she “will not be able to share my conversations or identify the student-athletes due to privacy concerns.”

The Providence Journal reached out to Christopher Humm, Brown’s Director of Athletics Communications, who stated that the school had no comment.  He did confirm, though, that the coach had not been fired or suspended.

Brown Athletics did not respond to questions by Ivy Hoops Online.

This weekend’s home games against Harvard and Dartmouth will conclude Behn’s sixth season at Brown.  Her team is 8-17 on the year and presently sits last in the Ivy League with a 2-10 mark.  Overall, she is 74-94 (.440) and her conference record is 20-62 (.323).

Behn’s first three years showed great promise as her teams increased their win totals from 10 in 2014-15 to 17 in the 2016-17 campaign.  That third team went 7-7 in the Ancient Eight, captured the fourth seed in the inaugural Ivy Tournament and earned a first round win in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) Tournament.

With almost the entire roster returning, hopes were high heading into the 2017-18 season and the Bears started with a program-best 12-1 start.  Things quickly went downhill after a season-ending injury to one of the team’s stars and Behn’s squad finished 3-11  in conference play.

The news is the latest in a tumultuous few weeks for the Foxboro, Massachusetts, native.  Just over three weeks ago, Behn’s mother passed away, and at the end of January, the coach had a domestic assault charge stemming from a July 2018 arrest dismissed after her husband invoked his spousal privilege and chose not to testify.

These allegations of abusive behavior are the most recent leveled against an Ivy League coach in the last several years.  Since January 2018, articles about mistreatment by the Penn softball coachPenn volleyball coach and Cornell softball coach were written by the Daily Pennsylvanian and Cornell Daily Sun, respectively.

Iain Braddack resigned from his position as Penn’s volleyball coach at the end of January, but Leslie King remains with the Quakers softball program and Julie Farlow is still in charge at Cornell.

Time will tell if Behn is given a chance at a seventh year in Providence.

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