Before Rob Jeter, there was Greg Cromwell. Now the former UW-Milwaukee tennis coach – who was fired after his team won its first league title ever – is speaking out, defending Jeter, calling embattled Athletic Director Amanda Braun a “liar” and accusing her of having “emotional problems.”
Minutes before the exclusive sit-down interview with PantherVision and Media Milwaukee, a sense of anger and frustration filled the room while his face turned cherry red.
“I just get so worked up,” Cromwell said underneath his breath while recollecting his final days as the university’s tennis coach. His one-year experience was cut short by Braun (who has declined to speak to student journalists of late, including about this story).
The former tennis coach from just two seasons ago made his way into Bolton Hall heading to the fifth floor where the “newsroom” of the Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies Department is located. As far as the public knows, Greg Cromwell, was a former, but successful tennis coach for UWM back in 2014. Unlike the Jeter firing, which led to scads of controversy and media stories, Cromwell’s termination flew beneath the radar.
“I have nothing to gain by talking to you,” Cromwell admitted to the student reporters. “I was very upset with what happened to Coach Jeter. I think that was very unfair. I am just baffled that a team like UWM could at any point in history beat Wisconsin. I mean, when that happened I was blown away. They (Badgers) were in the national final game a year ago; UWM has no money comparatively. I want to stress that.”
He was talking about the 2015 upset, in which the UWM Panthers men’s basketball team that Jeter coached defeated the Badgers by a single point. By March, 2016, Braun had fired Jeter, saying the team had under performed.
Seconds after the reporter pressed “record,” Cromwell introduced himself with his former UWM title and began his story.
“When I was here, the team had its best season ever in history,” said Cromwell with his chest held high.
Like Jeter, Cromwell was unexpectedly terminated. The story behind Cromwell’s termination has been largely unknown to the public since PantherVision and Media Milwaukee teamed up to investigate the controversy behind the Athletic Department and Braun.
According to Cromwell’s contract, Amanda Braun fired Cromwell for the team’s performance (she has given similar explanations about Jeter).
Cromwell revealed on PantherVision and Media Milwaukee that he received a performance-related bonus in his last paycheck. Allegedly, it took UWM two years to deposit it to him.
“How can you be terminated for your performance, if you earned a performance related bonus?” Cromwell uttered while clutching his fists out of frustration. “That is impossible! So, she’s a liar. I’ll stand by that. She can come to me and talk to me in person. She’s a liar!”
Braun fired and refused to renew his contract, after a dominating season, through email, Cromwell said.
Cromwell explained that he simply “objected” to his salary after the team’s successful season; which started disagreements between the two. He remembers Braun telling him that complaining about his salary, which was $15,000 a year while juggling two additional jobs, is not being a “team player.” He also requested an increase in budget items to properly feed his players and provide equipment to better the program. Braun allegedly told him that they will “win as much as they can afford.”
“Once I got on her bad side it was over,” said Cromwell. “I’m pretty sure the same thing happened to Jeter. Once you get on that woman’s bad side, forget it. She’s not the right Athletic Director for this school. She’s obviously got emotional issues that affect her work. Coach Jeter is a good coach! Did he deserve that? Does he deserve to be fired because a woman has emotional problems? Who’s the person who should be fired? I have nothing to gain by what I’m saying; I am telling the truth. She cannot refute what I’m saying!”
The UWM women’s tennis team won the Horizon League in 2014 for the first time in the program’s history (a UWM Post story from that year dubbed it a “special year.”) Cromwell was responsible for this historic accomplishment, an accomplishment he believes will never happen again, at least not anytime soon.
“An asteroid will hit the earth before that happens,” said Cromwell.
In addition to being Horizon League Champions, the team’s journey consists of game-winning matches against top-level teams such as, Drake and USC. He compares their win against USC to UWM men’s basketball team defeating the Wisconsin Badgers this past season under Jeter, who has now taken an assistant coaching job at UNLV.
“We finished the year with a higher national ranking than the Wisconsin Badgers,” said Cromwell with pride, failing to fight the smirk off his face. “It’s kind of like Jeter’s team beating Madison this last season.”
Not only does he compare their matches to the men’s basketball games, he also compares his termination as the head coach to Jeter’s. The public announcement of Jeter’s firing on March 17 set fire to the rain throughout Milwaukee and even in Platteville, Wisconsin where he played and coached collegiate basketball at UW-Platteville.
“Who gets fired after dominating, right? Doesn’t make sense,” Cromwell said with a hint of sarcasm. Before coming to UWM, Cromwell was head tennis coach at Divine Holy Savior Angels High School and taught tennis overseas. He has since worked as a tennis pro and assistant professor at Alverno College.
Noticeably, both coaches (Cromwell’s and Jeter’s) players reacted the same. Men’s basketball players Akeem Springs and Austin Arians requesting release and committing to another team is reminiscent of Diana Tokar’s story; she was a former UWM tennis player who now plays for Marquette University. Tokar decided to transfer (after an appeal) to play for Marquette’s tennis team due to Braun firing Cromwell, he said.
“Diana was unhappy here,” said Cromwell. “She wanted to transfer when I was fired. The student athletes experience has to be more important than some part-time coach that no one cares about.”
According to Cromwell and a saved text message from Tokar, the minute Tokar walked into Braun’s office, she knew Braun would decline her request to transfer. Braun allegedly attempted to block Tokar’s transfer. In the text, Tokar wrote that Braun “made up a rule” saying UWM is not allowed to release players they compete against. Cromwell later revealed that he managed to “foil” Braun’s attempt by saving old emails, which forced Braun to “change her decision” when Tokar appealed, and Cromwell presented his evidence.
To provide evidence that Braun initially tried to block her transfer, Tokar requested all emails between her and Braun from Julie Kipp, University Relations and Communications Administrator. Tokar received the old emails that were written after her appeal (from Kipp, who requested the old emails from Braun). Tokar told Kipp that there should be more emails, and Kipp told Tokar that Braun doesn’t have any other emails.
“What the heck,” said Tokar, reacting to Kipp’s response.
One of the emails Braun sent eventually read, “I confirm that we decided to approve the one-time transfer exception to Marquette.”
Tokar was named First-Team All-Horizon League her freshman year in 2014. She was one of the top players in the conference throughout the season. Her overall record was 12-7, including a 7-1 mark against some of the most dominant opponents in their league. Tokar helped the team win a share of the programs historic achievement of being the 2014 Horizon League Champions.
This year’s tennis team just finished their season over a heartbreaking loss against Wright State in the Horizon league tournament. The tournament was held at the Varsity Tennis Center at the University of Michigan. Before Wright State snagged three wins in singles play, Dana Shannon obtained a 6-1, 7-5 win and Hayley Marshall, second-team-all-conference honoree won three sets, ranking her second place.
“Dana Shannon was one of my favorite players,” said Cromwell. “She was tough as nails! It’s going to be tough losing her.”
Jeff Aranda is the current head coach. He was named the head coach in January 2016, which makes him the 10th head coach in program history. A year before he was named head coach, he was elected to the Milwaukee Athletics Hall of Fame. Aranda took over after Maddy Soule, who lasted several months before stepping down.