Cal Poly San Luis Obispo head swimming coach Phil Yoshida has been placed on indefinite leave by the university while school officials investigate multiple allegations made over a more than year-long period that Yoshida verbally and emotionally abused, threatened and retaliated against athletes and assistant coaches, the Southern California News Group has learned.
Cal Poly swimmers were informed of Yoshida’s leave and the university’s investigation by Mustang athletic director Don Oberhelman on September 6, according to two people familiar with the meeting and investigation.
Yoshida was notified by the university’s human resources department that he was placed on leave on August 26, according to two people familiar with the investigation. Athletic department employees were informed of the leave and investigation on September 6, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Oberhelman has told Cal Poly team captains to tell parents not to send him emails about the investigation or complaining about Yoshida to him and that any questions regarding the matter and the swimming program should be directed to the team’s captains, according to a parent of a Mustang swimmer.
Yoshida and Oberhelman did not respond to requests for comment.
Yoshida, a longtime Cal Poly assistant coach, was promoted to head coach after the 2020-21 season.
As many as 40 swimmers on the 2020-21 roster have left the Cal Poly program before completing their collegiate eligibility, according to a review of rosters, interviews with current and former Cal Poly swimmers and athletic department employees and university documents.
Oberhelman has received a steady stream of complaints about Yoshida’s alleged abusive behavior from Mustang swimmers and their parents since Yoshida’s first season as head coach, according to five people familiar with investigation, including current and former university employees, and university documents and records, and emails to and from Yoshida and other athletic department employees obtained by SCNG.
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Oberhelman dismissed the allegations and at one point threatened to cut the men’s program if the male swimmers continued to complain against Yoshida, according to four people familiar with the investigation, including current and former athletic department employees.
A group of swimmers met with the university vice president for student affairs in March, according to a person familiar with the investigation. A few weeks later, in May, the university hired a San Luis Obispo human resources consultant to investigate the allegations against Yoshida, according to four people familiar with the investigation. The consultant began interviewing current and former Cal Poly swimmers in May.
A report based largely on the interviews of 40 current and former swimmers and their parents was completed and presented to university officials in June, according to two people familiar with the investigation.
Yoshida was placed on leave after the university received additional allegations that Yoshida had retaliated against an athletic department employee, according to three people familiar with the decision.