The Texas Tech University women’s basketball team came under scrutiny Wednesday as a report accused coach Marlene Stollings and her staff of fostering a culture of abuse that has led to several players transferring from the program.
Players told USA Today that a heart-monitoring system was misused in punitive ways, they had to endure demeaning and threatening comments and were subjected to sexually suggestive behavior from a strength coach who has since resigned from the program. The players made the comments over the last two years in season-ending exit interviews and the comments were obtained by The Intercollegiate.
“It was basically like a torture mechanism,” Erin DeGrate told USA Today. “I feel like the system wasn’t being used how she was using it.”
DeGrate played two seasons with the Lady Raiders before transferring to Louisville and eventually winning a national championship with Baylor as a graduate transfer.
Emma Merriweather told the newspaper she was mocked about her weight in front of the men’s basketball team and admonished over showing signs of depression, for which she was later diagnosed.
Merriweather added that she intended to register her dog as an emotional support animal. Stollings allegedly arranged for a booster – who Merriweather didn’t know – to take the pet away. She tweeted after the story was published that “coach pulled me aside a week after owning him to tell me that he was going to distract me from basketball.”
Several other players recalled being berated with remarks like “fat pig” and “grossly out of shape.”
“It was just the feeling of fear, anxiety, depression,” Mia Castaneda told USA Today. “And it wasn’t just a few people. It was our entire team. They were breaking not just athletes, they were breaking people.”
Stollings defended the program in a statement to the newspaper. She was in her second season with the program when the coronavirus pandemic cut it short. The team was 18-11.
“We know change is difficult and that has been no different at Texas Tech,” she said. “Some wonderful young women have decided to leave our program and pursue their dreams elsewhere. Our administration and my staff believe in the way we are building and turning this program around here. Our student athletes are developing a disciplined approach both on and off the court.”
Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said a committee was convened to review the program and it had been discussed with Stollings. He later said he met with players for more than an hour and coaches for more than two hours.
“There is nothing more important to Texas Tech and me personally than the experience of our student-athletes,” he said. “We will continue our conversation (Thursday) to work through concerns about our program as we seek a path forward to make sure we are providing an environment to educate, serve and grow our student-athletes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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