Erik Helland, the director of strength and conditioning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, resigned Thursday morning after UW officials became aware of a “racial epithet” he used in the presence of student-athletes.
Helland had been the strength and conditioning coach for the men’s basketball team since 2013.
“UW Athletics administration was informed last weekend that Helland, while recounting a story from earlier in his NBA career, had used a racial epithet in the presence of multiple Wisconsin men’s basketball student-athletes,” the team said in a statement. “UW Athletics confirmed that assertion on Sunday. UW Athletics works to promote a safe and welcoming environment for its student-athletes and staff and the aforementioned language used does not align with the values of the athletic department, men’s basketball program or the university.”
Helland was placed on administrative leave on Monday and did not travel with the team to Minnesota for UW’s 70-52 loss Wednesday night.
The resignation comes on the heels of Kobe King’s decision to leave the team last week. King claimed the team was not “the right fit for me as a player and person,” and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the racial epithet involved King directly.
The team denied that any players were directly involved, however.
“Multiple public reports have indicated that UW Athletics has been investigating the alleged use of racially insensitive language directed at one student-athlete,” the team said in the statement. “That allegation is inaccurate. UW Athletics has no evidence -- nor has it been alleged to the athletic department -- that Helland directed racially insensitive language toward any member of the men’s basketball team.”
Additionally, King thanked Helland when he announced his decision.
Helland was hired by the Chicago Bulls in 1988 and was named the team’s strength and conditioning coach in 2001. He worked in that role until he joined UW’s staff in 2013.