Ben Greenspan has been hired as Northwestern’s new baseball coach, the university announced Friday. Greenspan takes over for Jim Foster, who was dismissed in July amid allegations of bullying and abusive behavior that prompted a recent lawsuit from three former team staffers.
“After an extensive nationwide search, Ben’s experience and coaching prowess quickly set him apart within the candidate pool,” athletic director Derrick Gragg said in a news release. “At each of his stops, he has consistently showcased his ability to develop both players and programs. With a proven track record of recruiting top talent and fostering growth, we’re confident Ben will lead our baseball program to new heights.”
Greenspan comes to Northwestern from the University of Michigan, where he spent last season as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. He previously coached at California Polytechnic State University, Arizona State and Indiana.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected as the next Head Baseball Coach at Northwestern,” Greenspan said in the release. “My personal and professional beliefs align with the mission and values of Northwestern University, where academically oriented student-athletes strive for excellence on the field and in the classroom. My playing and coaching experience in the Big Ten has provided me with a knowledge of the fierce competition and excellence of the Conference. This is a challenge that I welcome.”
Greenspan takes the helm of a program mired in controversy. Foster was let go July 13, days after the Chicago Tribune and others reported on allegations of abuse and bullying that ultimately led to a human resources investigation.
That probe, the Tribune reported, found “sufficient evidence” that the first-year coach “engaged in bullying and abusive behavior.” It went on to conclude that Foster “made an inappropriate comment regarding a female staff member and spoke negatively about his staff to other staff members.”
Multiple players hit the transfer portal at the end of a tumultuous 10-40 season. Assistant coach Brian Anderson, a former Chicago White Sox player who was part of the 2005 World Series-winning team, was asked to lead the program following Foster’s departure.
Earlier this week, two former assistant coaches and the former operations director sued the university, claiming it failed to protect them and players from “an abusive, toxic and dangerous environment” under Foster.
“We reported coach Foster’s conduct to Northwestern believing that they would do the right thing. Northwestern did not do the right thing,” Chris Beacom, former team operations director, said in a statement read during a news conference Monday announcing the lawsuit.
“Instead,” he continued, “they swept our reports under the rug, putting their staff, student-athletes and reputation at risk.”
Beacom and two former assistant coaches, Dusty Napoleon and Jon Strauss, are suing the university, Foster, Gragg, deputy athletic director Monique Holland and associate athletic director for human resources Rachel Velez.
Foster’s attorney, James Kelly, emailed a statement Tuesday saying his client “denies all allegations of wrongdoing. He looks forward to vigorously defending these false claims and being fully vindicated when the truth is revealed about Plaintiffs’ malicious motives and pursuit of personal financial gain.”
Northwestern, meanwhile, issued a statement calling the lawsuit “without merit.”
“When the athletic director and the university were first made aware of complaints about coach Foster, the university immediately initiated a human resources investigation,” the statement read. “The assistant coaches and director of operations received full support from the university, they were paid for their full contracts and, at their request, were allowed to support other areas of our athletic department as needed.”
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County court, is the latest in a growing number of legal challenges facing the university and its beleaguered athletics department in the wake of a football hazing scandal that expanded to allegations of abuse and bullying on other teams.