The head women’s basketball coach at Swarthmore College has resigned amid an investigation commissioned by the college over an accusation that she sexually assaulted a former player at Vassar College when she coached there a decade ago.
In a 59-page preliminary investigative report by the Cozen O’Connor law firm, coach Candice Signor-Brown denied assaulting the player but acknowledged that she kissed her in her hotel room.
Swarthmore said in a statement that Signor-Brown, who had led the team since 2019, resigned for personal reasons and that the investigation into the Vassar player’s complaint had not yet been completed. Reached by phone, Signor-Brown, 41, declined comment.
The report did not include findings or recommendations, and there likely won’t be any coming. Citing the college’s policies, Swarthmore said it was ending the nearly four-month external investigation because Signor-Brown has left and the former Vassar player has no affiliation with the college.
The college notified the former Vassar player that Signor-Brown had resigned late Thursday evening.
“I’m hoping this brings me some peace,” said the former Vassar player, a Marlboro, N.J., native who currently lives and works in Philadelphia. “This has been a pretty tough process for me. I hope this was the outcome the players want and they get the coach and the basketball experience they deserve.”
Word of Signor-Brown’s resignation had begun to filter out to Swarthmore players, including the family of star player Dana Bandurick, who was among a handful of players who had said they would refuse to play if Signor-Brown remained as head coach.
“We’re very happy that Dana is able to continue her basketball career at Swarthmore,” Laura Bandurick, Dana’s mother, said Friday morning.
Swarthmore has appointed Dawn Grant, former head coach of Delaware County Community College and a 1989 graduate of the City College of New York, as interim head women’s basketball coach for the 2021-22 academic year. Grant is a math teacher in the East Ramapo Central School District.
The controversy at Swarthmore erupted last summer after the former Vassar player alleged in an anonymous Instagram post that Signor-Brown had sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in December 2011 after an away game.
“I was sitting on the bed when she straddled me,” the woman wrote. “I remember asking what she was doing. She pinned me down with her body and put her hands in my sweatpants, under my underwear.” She wrote that she told the coach no several times and finally faked an orgasm so the coach would stop.
Swarthmore players called on the college to remove Signor-Brown and said the coach had also mistreated them, including visiting their dorm rooms, making demeaning comments, and pressuring them to play when they were sick, injured, or needed to study. The Swarthmore players did not accuse Signor-Brown of sexual misconduct.
An initial Swarthmore investigation last October concluded that Signor-Brown had shown a “serious error in judgment” in some dealings with players and “questionable judgment” in visiting players’ dorm rooms. But Swarthmore said at that time it intended to keep her. The college had said that it had reached out to the Vassar player through a third party but she declined to talk and it could not substantiate her claim. The college said it had developed a “corrective plan to address the issues, including by bringing in outside facilitators to work with both coach Signor-Brown and the members of the team on a process of reconciliation and healing.”
Swarthmore players, including Bandurick of New Hope, continued to pressure the college to act. A petition calling for Swarthmore to remove the coach or force her to resign has garnered more than 3,200 signatures from people inside and outside the college.
Laura Bandurick also complained to the NCAA over Signor-Brown’s treatment of players, including encouraging her daughter to play with a broken elbow during the 2019-20 season. (The team did not play in 2020-21 because of COVID-19.)
Then in May, the former Vassar player came forward and filed the complaint with Swarthmore, which then conducted an external investigation. She told The Inquirer she decided to do so after current Swarthmore players had asked her for help.
According to the report, Signor-Brown and the Vassar player gave conflicting accounts of what happened that night in Florida, but agreed that the player was in Signor-Brown’s hotel room and there was a kiss. The report laid out what investigators had been told by the Vassar player, Signor-Brown, and eight other former players, coaches, and others about that night, as well as during other points, both before and after the alleged assault.
The Vassar player told investigators that Signor-Brown had invited her to her hotel room after the game and gave her a drink that smelled and tasted like it contained alcohol. Signor-Brown denied giving her alcohol and said she invited the player to come to her room after the player texted her and said she was struggling with personal issues.
The Vassar player said that Signor-Brown initiated the kiss, while the coach claimed it was the player who “leaned in” to kiss her, according to the report. But Signor-Brown acknowledged to investigators that she leaned in as well and kissed the player back, “until, after 10 to 15 seconds, she realized what she was doing, stopped, and stood up,” the report said. She said she told the player she was not interested in an intimate relationship.
Signor-Brown denied any vaginal contact with the player, even after investigators informed her that two former students, one a team manager and one a player, had told them the Vassar player disclosed the same account to them in spring 2012. The Vassar player had dated both of the former students at different times.
Signor-Brown told investigators she did not report the incident to Vassar, which at the time had a policy that stated employees had to disclose romantic relationships with students.
“20/20 hindsight, now I think I should have because then … people would have known exactly what happened,” she told investigators, according to the report.
Also in the report, Signor-Brown acknowledged kissing a player from Marist College, whom she did not coach, but denied dating her or engaging in other sexual activity.
Players and parents said they were happy that Signor-Brown was gone, but wished it had not taken so long.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Karinna Papke, a former player and a senior from Alexandria, Va., who is studying abroad this semester. “There was quite enough evidence for her to resign sooner. But I’m really excited that the girls coming in won’t have to go through that.”