Another ex-ISU soccer player accuses coach of mistreatment

Another former Iowa State women’s soccer player has accused coach Matt Fannon of mistreatment, alleging he forced her to play while she was hurt and tried to kick her off the team after she was diagnosed with a medical condition.

Cora Anderson, a former goalkeeper for the Cyclones from 2020-21, came forward with the allegations after a Des Moines Register investigation last week revealed other former players’ accusations of mistreatment by Fannon. Anderson was on scholarship, and it’s an NCAA violation to force a scholarship player off a team as a result of illness.

Anderson also confirmed many of the allegations raised by former Iowa State soccer player Olivia Wee and eight other former members of the program who spoke on condition of anonymity. A former player from Bowling Green State University, where Fannon previously coached, also raised allegations on the record.

Wee and the others said Fannon verbally abused them, body shamed them over their weight and accused him of throwing water battles and kicking balls at coaches during workouts. He also used a dangerous drill that resulted in a player suffering a torn ligament in her knee, according to the players who spoke to the Register.

Fannon has not responded to multiple email requests for interviews. Calli Sanders, senior associate athletics director/sports administration, also has declined interview requests through a school spokesperson. Iowa State denied an open records request for any Title IX complaints against Fannon. The school also wouldn’t say whether it’s looking into any of the allegations raised by the Register’s investigation. Fannon is under contract at Iowa State through the 2024 season.

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Cora Anderson accuses Fannon of trying to run her off the team

In an interview with the Register, Anderson said Fannon tried to remove her from the team after she was diagnosed with vocal cord dysfunction, which caused breathing issues, in February of 2021. She said the condition, which presented asthma-like symptoms for her, prevented her from passing a fitness test despite two rounds of speech therapy and some medication.

Anderson said Fannon did not take the health problems seriously and then tried kicking her off the team during a meeting in September 2021.

‘(He) just said that it was all in my head and that my condition wasn’t affecting anything, and I just needed to get over it,” Anderson said. “And then I still couldn’t pass it so he brought me to his office and he practically said, ‘Hey, you can’t pass this test; we’re going to have to part ways with you.’”

Anderson believes it was Fannon’s intention to run her off the team. According to the NCAA Rulebook, rule, a student athlete’s scholarship cannot be revoked due to “an injury, illness, or physical or mental condition.”

Anderson said she spoke to Sanders about the conversation with Fannon.

“She kind of just blew me off and said, ‘Oh, actually, Matt did not kick you off — he was just suspending you,’’” Anderson said. “Which was not clarified to me.”

Anderson then went back to Fannon, who told her she could be on the team but she would never play, she said. He added that she should transfer and “was no longer welcome,” Anderson said. Anderson left the team on Oct. 3, 2021.

Other accusations: Pressure to play while injured; urging a player to have breast reduction surgery

Anderson also spoke of the drill Fannon used that some players consider unsafe. The ball was placed in the middle of two players standing across from each other, about 2 to 3 yards from both. Fannon then directed the players to rush toward the ball and fight for possession. During the drill, one player suffered a torn ligament in her knee, players said.

“When that did happen, Matt didn’t even check on her and just said, ‘Get off the field’ and told the team, ‘This is what happens when you don’t go in for tackles — so don’t be like her,’” Anderson said.

Players also said Fannon forced them to do daily weigh-ins, something Anderson said she and other players were uncomfortable with. In addition, Anderson said she was pressured to return early from a thumb injury that doctors said would keep her out four to six weeks. Anderson was back in two.

“He (Fannon) was just like, ‘Yeah, that’s just a suggestion from the doctors — you can probably go earlier,’” she said. “So I ended up practicing and started catching (balls) at like two weeks or something, which made my thumb worse and I still had problems with it for a couple of months after that.”

Alyssa Abernot, a former goalie at Bowling Green State, said Fannon told her to get breast reduction surgery, which she did because she thought complying would help her get playing time. She said doctors told her she’d need at least six weeks off from soccer to rest. But she said Fannon made her do bike work, and she believes that led to an infection that required more surgery.

Former ISU, Bowling Green State players defend Matt Fannon

Some former Fannon-coached players from Bowling Green State and Iowa State are speaking up in defense of their former coach, circulating a supportive statement on Twitter.

The statement said ‘he cultivated an environment where high standards were accompanied with high levels of support. He constantly prioritized a culture where his players were seen as people first, athletes second.’

The statement also said Fannon has remained a ‘constant mentor’ to lean on beyond their playing days.

Anderson said that she brought up her concerns about Fannon and the direction of the program to Sanders.

“I just said that Matt has not added to the culture very well to the program, and she didn’t really say anything about it,” Anderson said.

Anderson said she also tried going to Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard, but Sanders told her no.

‘I was like, ‘Could I talk to Jamie Pollard?” Anderson said. ‘And she (Sanders) said ‘No, I think we’ve resolved the issue.”

Follow Tommy Birch on Twitter @TommyBirch.

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