Another former Iowa State women’s soccer player has accused coach Matt Fannon of abuse, alleging he forced her to play while she was injured and tried to kick her off the team after being diagnosed with the disease.
Former 2020-21 Cyclones goaltender Cora Anderson came forward with the allegations after a Des Moines Registry Survey last week revealed accusations of other former players of mistreatment by Fannon. Anderson was a scholarship holder, and it is an NCAA violation to force a scholarship player off a team due to illness.
Anderson also confirmed numerous allegations raised by former Iowa State football player Olivia Wee and eight other former members of the program who spoke on condition of anonymity. A former player at Bowling Green State University, where Fannon previously coached, also raised documented allegations.
Wee and the others said Fannon verbally abused them, shamed them about their weight, and accused him of throwing water fights and kicking trainers during workouts. He also used a dangerous drill that tore a player’s knee ligament, according to the players who spoke to the Register.
Fannon did not respond to multiple email interview requests. Calli Sanders, senior assistant athletic director/athletic administration, also declined interview requests through a school spokesperson. The State of Iowa has denied a request for open records for any Title IX claims against Fannon. The school also wouldn’t say if it is investigating any of the allegations raised by the registry’s investigation. Fannon is under contract at Iowa State through the 2024 seasonnm
Cora Anderson accuses Fannon of trying to kick her out of 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 problems, in February 2021. She said the condition, who had asthma-like symptoms for her, prevented her from taking a fitness test despite two sessions of speech therapy and some medication.
Anderson said Fannon didn’t take the health issues seriously and then tried to kick her out of the team in a meeting in September 2021.
“(He) just said it was all in my head and my condition didn’t affect anything, and I just had 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 kick her off the team. According to NCAA rule 18.104.22.168, a student-athlete’s scholarship cannot be revoked because of “injury, illness, or physical or mental condition.”
Anderson said she told Sanders about the conversation with Fannon.
“She kind of blew me off and said, ‘Oh, actually, Matt didn’t fire you – he was just suspending you,'” Anderson said. “Which was not made clear to me.”
Anderson then returned to Fannon, who told her she could make the team but would never play, she said. He added that she should be transferred and “was no longer welcome,” Anderson said. Anderson left the team on October 3, 2021.
Other charges: pressure to play while injured; tricking a player into having breast reduction surgery
Anderson also spoke about the drill used by Fannon which some players consider dangerous. The ball was placed in the middle of two players standing opposite each other, about 2 to 3 meters away from both. Fannon then ordered the players to race for the ball and fight for possession. During the drill, one player suffered a torn ligament in her knee, players said.
“When it happened, Matt didn’t even check it and just said, ‘Get off the pitch’ and told the team, ‘That’s what happens when you don’t make tackles – so don’t be like her,” Anderson said.
Players also said Fannon forced them to do daily weigh-ins, which Anderson said she and other players were uncomfortable with. Additionally, Anderson said she was pressured to return early from a thumb injury that doctors said would keep her sidelined for 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) after two weeks or something which made my thumb worse and I still had trouble with that for a few months after that.”
Alyssa Abernot, a former Bowling Green State guard, said Fannon told her to have breast reduction surgery, which she did because she thought compliance would help her buy playing time. She said doctors told her she would need at least six weeks off football to rest. But she said Fannon made her ride a bike, and she thinks that led to an infection that required more surgery.
Former ISU and Bowling Green State players defend Matt Fannon
Some former players coached by Fannon from Bowling Green State and Iowa State are speaking out in defense of their former coach, circulating a statement of support on Twitter.
According to the statement, “He cultivated an environment where high standards were accompanied by a high level of support. He consistently prioritized a culture where his players were seen as people first, athletes second. “
The statement also says Fannon has remained a “constant mentor” to lean on beyond his playing days.
Anderson said she brought her concerns about Fannon and the direction of the program to Sanders.
“I just said that Matt didn’t add to the culture of the program very well, and she really didn’t say anything about it,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she also tried to go see Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard, but Sanders told her no.
“I was like, ‘Can I talk to Jamie Pollard?'” Anderson said. “And she (Sanders) said, ‘No, I think we solved the problem.'”
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports entrepreneur and featured reporter, has worked at the newspaper since 2008. He is Iowa’s 2018 and 2020 Sports Writer of the Year. Join it at [email protected] or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.