WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - WARNING: This story contains information that some might find offensive.
Sources close to the UNCW baseball team say they believe crude language used during a motivational speech given via Skype more than a year ago led to the recent dismissal of pitching coach Matt Williams.
The language did not come from Williams, but rather a nationwide speaker who often communicates with athletic organizations. The controversial language was part of a May 2017 online session with speaker Brian Cain of Brian Cain Peak Performance.
Contracts and invoices obtained through a public records request indicate the baseball team used Cain's services on multiple occasions dating back to at least 2014. The women's basketball team also contracted with Cain in 2016.
Sources close to the baseball team say Williams set up the equipment for the Skype session, but didn't have prior knowledge of any of the language Cain was going to use during the speech. The Skype session was set up because the pitching staff had been struggling.
During the motivational speech, Cain showed the players a sex toy that he referred to as the Dick of Death. Cain told the pitchers they needed to act more powerful on the mound, according to the source. When reached for comment, a representative for Cain sent the below statement on Tuesday.
After the Skype session, a few players created a phallic symbol out of baseballs that they called the D of D.
"We only used the D of D for motivation for a short time," the source said.
According to sources close to the program, the D of D wasn't to be seen in public, and no punishment or questions were asked about it during the 2017 season.
According to a report published in the Wilmington StarNews, a photograph featuring the symbol appeared on a university baseball web page since May 2017. In the photo, which was screen grabbed and attached to this story, a player appears to be holding a phallic symbol in his hand while at home plate congratulating a teammate.
Hours after the publication of the article, the picture was removed from the site. A spokesperson indicated they were looking into why the picture was no longer on the website but has yet to offer a reason for its removal.
The university has not acknowledged whether the alleged motivational speech incident led to the dismissal of Williams, but in response to questions, did acknowledge that "allegations related to the baseball program" were investigated under university policy.
Sources indicate that in January 2018, university administrators interviewed Seahawk coaches, staff, returning players, and people associated with the team. The school also conducted interviews last April. It is not clear why the investigation began so long after the initial incident. Sources say April was the first time the possibility of firing Williams had been brought up.
Prior to the Seahawks' April 11 game against N.C. State, players discussed the option of not playing the game in a show of support for Williams. But prior to the game, the team was told Williams wasn't being let go, and the game was played as scheduled.
UNCW went on to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, earning a bid to the Greenville Regional hosted by East Carolina. The Seahawks advanced to the regional championship and lost to South Carolina on June 4, ending their season.
Days later, Williams was dismissed.
University officials have not responded to several questions about the dismissal and subsequent controversy, only offering the following statement prior to the publication of this article:
Williams had been with the UNCW program since 2013, overseeing a pitching program that produced three conference pitchers of the year during his tenure.
Williams has not commented on the dismissal, but several former players and supporters of the baseball program have criticized the administration on social media.
Former Chicago Cub Seth Frankoff, a UNCW alumnus, noted he was blocked by Athletic Director Jimmy Bass on Twitter after expressing frustration. A spokesperson said that Bass wasn't aware that he had blocked Frankoff, and wouldn't have blocking him because of this situation.