A former girls soccer coach at a North Shore Catholic high school has served his former employers with a defamation lawsuit, saying they ruined his coaching career and smeared his reputation based on allegedly false reports he had “verbally abused” and made “inappropriate comments” to the girls on his team at Loyola Academy.
On May 9, Craig Snower filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, accusing Loyola Academy of defamation and libel after the school’s principal and athletic director fired him last spring and sent emails to his former players and their parents, accusing him of the alleged misconduct.
According to the lawsuit, the accusations were investigated by police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, yet resulted in no actions or charges against Snower. According to the complaint, Wilmette Police closed their investigation in one day, after detectives interviewed Loyola Academy girls soccer players. DCFS closed its investigation quickly, as well, labeling the accusations “unfounded.”
Despite the results of the investigation, however, Snower said he has been blackballed in youth soccer, both by schools and youth soccer clubs in the region.
He blames Loyola Academy and its administrators, and is asking the court to order the school to pay him more than $250,000 in damages.
The complaint centers on allegations which surfaced in the spring of 2018, accusing Snower of “verbal abuse” and “inappropriate comments” to players.
Snower’s complaint detailed his 25 years as “an inspiring, successful soccer coach … in the northern suburbs of Chicago,” coaching girls at multiple levels, including from 2004-2018 at Loyola Academy. The complaint said Snower’s Loyola teams won 13 conference championships and two sectional championships. Further, the complaint said Snower also has coached youth soccer club FC United for the last 21 years, also with apparent great success.
The complaint asserts on May 10, 2018, he was fired from his Loyola post without a chance to defend himself, and with few details about the reasons for his termination. He said the school’s principal and athletic director merely told him during a brief meeting at 2 p.m. that day that he was being terminated.
When he asked why, he allegedly was told “there were complaints from parents and students, who Loyola refused to identify, and he was being fired for verbally abusing the players and making inappropriate jokes and that there was no allegation of physical abuse.”
The complaint said two alleged examples of this misconduct were “false” rumors “that had circulated at least eight years previous.” The examples allegedly included accusations Snower had “fielded two teams to scrimmage calling them ‘virgins’ against ‘non-virgins,’” and had once “asked a girl what she would do if he touched her butt.”
Snower said these alleged events did not occur.
The complaint alleges at no time prior to May 10, 2018, did anyone accuse him of making “any sexually inappropriate comments” to players, or mention such alleged conduct to his assistant coaches – which he said always included “at least one female” – or to the administrators at Loyola Academy.
Rather, the complaint alleges Snower did often receive complaints from players and their parents about his coaching methods and how much playing time he would give certain players.
“Prior to May 10, 2018, (the administrators) had received complaints from parents and players second guessing Snower’s coaching decisions such as the way he constructed and fielded a team and from parents who did not like the fact that Snower yelled at their children while they were playing on the field, held their children to account for their behavior and/or performance,” the complaint said.
However, at no time were these complaints brought to Snower’s attention and he was not informed of these complaints and was not requested to alter his coaching style.”
After terminating Snower, the complaint said the Loyola administrators told FC United of its actions against Snower, and the youth soccer organization cut ties with Snower, as well.
The complaint said the administrators further repeated their accusations against Snower in emails and meetings with players and parents.
The story also was reported in articles and reports published by numerous news organizations, including the “Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today and on various local TV networks.”
“… On May 15, 2018, Loyola issued a statement to the press in connection with its termination of Snower as head varsity coach in which it stated ‘Loyola Academy is committed to maintaining a safe environment for our students and their well-being is our highest priority,’ falsely implying that Snower had engaged in criminal misconduct and that his presence at Loyola presented a threat to the safety of its students and their well being.”
The complaint noted the Illinois Youth Soccer Association, based on the allegations, further “disqualified Snower from all Illinois Youth Soccer related activities pending the outcomes of investigations by Illinois DCFS and the U.S. Center for Safesport.”
However, subsequent investigations by Wilmette Police detectives and DCFS resulted in no criminal allegations, and Snower said he still has not been “accused of abusing any soccer player” as defined by the law.
Snower is represented in the action by attorney Susan Bogart, of Chicago.