Chassidy Cole denies altercation with Bill Fennelly; former players support

ISU head coach Bill Fennelly talks to his team after senior guard Nikki Moody was given a technical foul during the championship game of the Cyclone Challenge on Dec. 30.

Luke Manderfeld

On Monday evening, former ISU women’s basketball player Chassidy Cole denied that she ever had a racially charged altercation with ISU coach Bill Fennelly during her playing career from 2009-12. 

The comments came in the light of former player Nikki Moody’s lawsuit against Fennelly, Iowa State and the state of Iowa for racial discrimination. Cole, an African-American, is one particular player that was mentioned in the lawsuit as someone who took verbal abuse from Fennelly. 

In one instance, the suit claims Fennelly told Cole that she “will end up in prison, just like her mother.” Cole said that never happened.

The suit also claims Fennelly called Cole a “thug” and that she was “ungrateful” for what Fennelly did for her. 

“I’ve never been treated with racism, and I’ve never seen any of his players be treated with racism,” Cole said. 

Cole said the staff hardly talked about her mother being in prison, and if the coaches brought it up, it was mostly positive. 

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday, said Fennelly “called [Moody] names, criticized her, made negative comments about her and her family, and alienated her from fans, teammates, staff, and her own parents.” Most of the insults were racially charged, according to the suit.  

Former Cyclone Brynn Williamson, an African-American who played with Moody and was mentioned in the lawsuit, put a statement on Twitter on Tuesday morning. 

“Being a cyclone for Coach Fen was the HARDEST most rewarding four years I could imagine,” Williamson wrote. “There were times I would call my parents not sure if I would make it and they always told me, he’s your coach. You need to respect him. He knows what he’s doing.”

Williamson added: “I begged to be an adult and he treated me like one. No one ever wants to be told they’re wrong or to fix something or be demanded of success but, doesn’t it say more when they say nothing at all and have given up?”

Former Cyclone Megan Taylor echoed Cole’s statements Monday night, saying Fennelly promoted a “family atmosphere.”

“Anybody can sue anybody for anything,” Taylor said. “You’re going to get one disgruntled player for any program. It’s more unfortunate. I’m just sad that a Cyclone family member would do that.” 

Taylor, who is white, said she was “shocked” to hear of the lawsuit. Cole was as well, adding she doesn’t believe that anything Fennelly said to Moody could have been interpreted as racism. 

“I think that coach Fennelly treats all of his players equally and he does have high expectations and he wants players to fall in line with those,” Cole said. “I don’t think any of it has to do with racism, I think it’s just he wants to make better players out of us.” 

Moody or Fennelly didn’t immediately respond to texts from The Daily. 

Former basketball player and now-daughter-in-law of Fennelly, Lyndsey (Medders) Fennelly, said she reached out to former players Monday afternoon. She said all the reactions were positive. 

“It really was a shocker that Fennelly would be called racist because he’s never shown me any type of that behavior,” Cole said. “And we barely got playing time. It was never a topic of discussion.”

Moody claimed Fennelly called her a “thug,” among other insults, multiple times in her four-year career at Iowa State. When she finished playing at Iowa State, she and Williamson found their lockers cleared out with their belongings in a trash bag outside her locker, according to the suit. 

“He stays on top of people and holds them accountable, but it’s never been about race,” Cole said. “He’s the same way with everyone.”