Photo courtesy of Elliott Portillo | Tae Norwood stands at the home game against Chico State on Feb. 4, 2023.

Basketball coach Tae Norwood accused of verbal abuse, false promises


by Jake Knoeller, Camille Delany, and Angel Barker

Disclaimer: A reporter for The Lumberjack sat down with 8 men’s basketball players for a group interview. All of the quotes featured in this article are from this group of players.

The Cal Poly Humboldt men’s basketball team coach Tae Norwood and athletic department have come under scrutiny following allegations of abuse by players on the team.

Several current players spoke to The Lumberjack on the condition of anonymity. Their allegations range from emotional abuse and false promises to misappropriated funds and faked COVID test results.

College basketball coaches often push their players to the limit, but the accusations coming from Humboldt’s men’s basketball team suggest an overwhelmingly toxic culture promoted by Norwood.

“This is not college basketball,” one player said. “This is not how individuals should be treated on a daily basis.”

The Eureka Times-Standard reported on March 25 that recently resigned athletic director Cooper Jones was made aware of the allegations in January, but did not appear to respond to concerned parents’ emails. The players corroborate this.

“He knew we didn’t appreciate the way he was talking to us off the court and he told us, ‘Go ahead and tell the AD [athletic director], I don’t give a fuck, he ain’t gonna do nothing anyways,’” a player recounted. “And that was a big thing for us, because we felt helpless.”

Jones’ late February resignation seems conveniently timed to the players.
“He [Norwood] was in cahoots with the AD, and the AD is gone now,” another player said. “It’s all adding up.”

Norwood would accuse players of faking injuries during intense days of practice, endangering them. 

“Last year a few of us got sick with COVID before San Marcos and he told us to fake our COVID tests,” one player said.

He regularly verbally abused players, using phrases like, “Fuck y’all,” and, “Mind your fucking business.” Some players recalled Norwood cursing at minimum wage workers while on a trip.

“He told us that if we have a problem with what he says and try to speak back to him about it, we would be suspended indefinitely,” another player said.

“Sometimes he’d use us as his personal punching bag or stress ball,” said one player. “The way he’s treating us is making us fall out of love with the game.”

“When you dedicate your life to something and you’re in love with the sport, and then you have a guy in charge who has no interest in your well being and he has a vendetta against you, it takes a huge toll on you,” one player said. “It’s not like an injury the trainers can help you with.”

“He’s not getting the best out of us by abusing us, he’s just abusing us,” another player said.

Some players allege that Norwood used funds to fly first class, and would restrict their daily budget for food while on trips. He also made empty promises to players regarding their housing, the program’s funding, and the team’s status. 

One player says that Norwood told his family that his housing would be paid for, a promise that he never fulfilled.

Another player recalled a different recruiting effort that Norwood used to get him to play for Humboldt.

“Basically, he told us the school is aiming to go Division 1 in a couple years,” he said. “That he [Norwood] would be out at dinner and boosters would come up to him and write him checks for $10,000, $30,000, and $50,000 and he would just keep talking [about the money].”

According to the players, Norwood would say that the program had a lot of money because there is no longer a football program, and two teams are not competing for the same amount of funds. 

Among the empty promises Norwood made while recruiting was the prospect of getting compensated.

“He told us we would get a NIL deal and we would all get $2,000 each,” one player said. NIL stands for “name, image, and likeness,” where student athletes can get financial compensation through their own personal brand as an athlete. The players never saw that money. 

“What he is saying and what he is doing is just not adding up, and it’s not good,” said a player.

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  1. Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Wednesday, March 29, 2023

    These players are quoted much saying, “he told us this and that.. ” but nothing in writing affirms or denies the “he told us”…

    Reads awefully confusing so far… but, here is a life lesson for The Woke Generation,

    “TRUST NOBODY BUT YOURSELF, PEOPLE LIE… so get it in writing…” and even then, you’ll get jerked around…

    Anyhow, without facts (hard evidence) it also reads like a bunch of players not willing to work hard enough, and are just happy enough to hold a roster spot… and the word “fuck”… that is everyday vernacular accepted in 2023, so unsure why players are so UNPREPARED IN LIFE…

    … and maybe HSU Cal Poly is just not a fun place, look at all the administrative types bailing… doubt basketball is the big deal for such campus-life-blues… and cabin fever is real in Arcata, Humboldt…

    Question: Do college athletic departments divvy out passifiers… short of an actual player being kicked off the roster?

    Personally, would play for a passionate coach any day of the week who believes in excellence and uses fuck in phrases… not a big deal unless one is mentally unfit for such educational excellence… and at last check, did not know HSU CAL POLY caters to lower-bar dummies…

    • nahschewen nahschewen Wednesday, March 29, 2023

      How can you blame a person for trusting their coach more than you blame the coach for lying ? They are representing the school, an official status, these false promises are grounds to take legal action. Not a kid on a playground who said they’d pay you back. Sounds like u just want Norwoods dick to me.

      • Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Wednesday, March 29, 2023

        Easy, facts… show facts, not heresay or he said that he said that he said… the word “fuck”, but not directed at any player in particular thus far as not reported… take the suggestion about lying as a life lesson, it applies everyday… and the word fuck… it is as popular as liberalism, maybe more…

        As far as coach specifically, we only ask for hard evidence, facts… otherwise go about your life ambitions knowing people will lie… as to whom will, could be anyone, even mommy dearest…

        IDK, but if it is soooo bad, maybe a former player who quit the team would complain too… if such former player exists… why would a player complain so harshly after the season, and still stick to the plan of attack later… ya know, causing a team distraction versus waiting… in order to continue playing for a coach that is now on their hit list…

        Love of game + campus fame over doing what is right immediately… that is what some players have created…

  2. Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Wednesday, March 29, 2023

    Question: Are the anonymous players really complaining in their belief that their season win % would or even could have been more successful without Tae as coach?

    Just a fair question for posterity purposes… ya know, to avoid future melodramas, even though we all know that is impossible, so here we are, here we go again, and here we will be again and again and again like an energizer bunny… going forward into the future…

  3. Nahschewen Nahschewen Wednesday, March 29, 2023

    Dude I’m the comments all mad for nothing

  4. Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Saturday, April 8, 2023

    After reading the updated 2nd read, gotta question why the players now say this goes back beyond this past season, mentioning the likes of suicide…

    …calling bullshit now on the mental health suicide crap…

  5. Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Saturday, April 8, 2023

    After reading the updated 2nd read, gotta question why the players now say this goes back beyond this past season, mentioning the likes of suicide…

    …calling bullshit now on the mental health suicide crap….

  6. Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Monday, April 10, 2023

    January, but did not appear to respond to concerned parents’ emails. The players corroborate this.

    So, young adults still whine to mommy and daddy instead of growing-up and dealing with a situation that mommy and daddy never were a part of, but all-of-a-sudden know some stuff now… and these players still played for how many seasons?

    Thing is, if it was so bad, quit the team…

    Do not believe these full accusations at all… not quitting the team spells out voluminous “calling bullshit cards”…

  7. Henchman Of Justice Henchman Of Justice Monday, April 10, 2023

    2 other criticisms:

    1) Players are 100% responsible for anything their NIL

    2) Obviously something MORE IMPORTANT EXISTED above and beyond the allegations made by the very same players… that the players in question were not willing to quit the team…

    Thinking a counseling service appointment should be a requirement for all players before being given a roster spot… need to check their mental health and maturity levels before rewards are handed out to fill the future roster spots…

    …because again, no hard evidence has been provided… just he said, that he said this and that… which is an easy conspiracy amongst any sized group of people to commit… so, hand over some evidentiary dirt or get outta here with the he said, he said rubbish…

    …delaying hard facts and evidence to rant stories in media is not a get outta jail for free card neither… and makes such person or people who use(s) media to such degree… appear as a salt into wound begrudger with a kinda diabolical obsessive compulsive hyper ADD type seeking some sorta revenge for something that is illustrated without hard evidence.


  8. The cold hard truth The cold hard truth Wednesday, May 3, 2023

    These kids are so soft. Kiss division 1 dreams goodbye. now the kids are running the school and they need to go to therapy every time a coach tells them to walk it off, might as well just get the guidance counselor to coach the team. Bummer for calpoly.

    For people who don’t know, those booster payments are how calpoly gets better players. And trying to get to division 1, the players are going to have to hear the f word every once in a while without melting down into crisis counseling.

  9. Pioneer Pete Pioneer Pete Wednesday, May 3, 2023

    Ok. Who in the world would thinks Humbolt State Basketball would be going D1 ? The program has never won much, the area could never support a D1 college. The athletes are unrealistic here and need to grow up ! This is real life. Coaches etc. Will do and say things to win. So learn from the lesson and move on..don’t blame a coach. He may have Said things not so great, but put it all in context. These are adult men here he is trying to get the best athletic performance out-of to keep his job.
    Other CCAA colleges, just don’t have these issues because they 1- recruit more mature players 2- hire coaches with a more long term plan 3- Have a supportive administration and budget to start. All 3 of these things you don’t have at Humbolt. Sorry. Reality hurts. Grow up players….

  10. Downtown Freddie Brown Downtown Freddie Brown Thursday, May 4, 2023

    The three part series in the Times Standard was very disturbing. This goes way beyond a couple players unhappy about playing time. Six hours of practice a day, canceling senior day after the parents have traveled to see their kids for the last home game, making a bunch of false promises in order to get kids to come to the school. Not showing basic compassion toward those undergoing mental health sturggles, etc… There were at least twenty other disturbing things that should never have happened. Not one kid on this year’s roster was planning on returning if Norwood came back.

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