Basketball

USA Today Report on Marlene Stollings Mistreatment of Players

Unacceptable.

USA Today’s Jori Epstein and Daniel Libit detail the horrific allegations against players. I don’t know that I can really summarize everything that’s happened, allegedly. This is a summary of the claims, but they are so much more detailed in what actually happened:

■ The emphasis on maintaining an elevated heart rate during play drove two players to eschew taking over-the-counter painkillers in an effort to use the pain to keep their heart rates spiked.
■ The three international players on rosters the past two seasons allegedly faced treatment such as being ridiculed, isolated and threatened by coaches. Brazil native Marcella LaMark said Stollings told LaMark her fitness lagged so far behind teammates that she was “dangerous” to them.
■ Emma Merriweather, a 6-5 center, said she was admonished by coaches for displaying symptoms of depression, for which she was eventually diagnosed. She was also allegedly told by assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins to snap a rubber band on her wrist when she had a negative thought.
■ Five players alleged strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella sexually harassed players, making suggestive comments to one player and using a therapy technique that involved applying pressure to some players’ chests and pubic bones and groins. Petrella, who denies any misconduct, resigned in March after the season.
■ Three players said Stollings retaliated by holding tougher practices after they brought abuse claims to school officials, including Judi Henry, executive senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator.

If half of these allegations are true, I don’t see any way that Lady Raider head coach Marlene Stollings keeps her job.

She gave away someone’s dog for goodness sake. And this just isn’t a coach being tough, this is torture in a way, requiring players keeping their heart rate above 90% is inhumane. Go run at 90% and then tell me how long you can keep up that rate. It’s nearly impossible for an extended period of time. Keep in mind that Billy Clyde Gillespie was fired for much less as the head coach than Stollings is even remotely accused of and I’d love to see the mental gymnastics to justify one but not the other.

I was about to try to detail all of the things that I had issues with regarding this story and I found myself trying to figure out where to start because I have problems with all of it. All of it. Every personal story of each of the players is terrible.

I would love to know what and when Texas Tech athletic director Hocutt knew about these allegations. I believe that Hocutt is a good person and there’s never any ill intent, but . . . when you vet, how much vetting are you doing? These aren’t issues that just magically appear and leopards do not change their spots. And it isn’t just 1 player, or 2, or even 3, but 10 players that spoke to USA Today. This is a huge problem. And even if all of these allegations were new to Texas Tech and none of it happened at Minnesota, well, these players have some powerful statements and there should be some communication, other than online exit reports that apparently do a good enough job to raise a flag for reporters, between the athletic department and players. How in the hell does this coach get hired in the first place?

As far as I’m concerned, Stollings can just get the hell out of town.

Athletic director Kirby Hocutt said that he meant with the staff and players yesterday and released a statement:

“There is nothing more important to Texas Tech and me personally than the experience of our student-athletes. I met with the Lady Raider basketball team this afternoon for more than an hour and subsequently with the team and coaching staff for more than two hours. We will continue our conversation tomorrow 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.”

No amount of winning is worth abusing players. That’s a pretty simple rule. Don’t call people names. Don’t abuse someone you care about. As Emma Merriweather said in the story, Stollings has become a millionaire off of being “evil” and Texas Tech has, perhaps unwittingly or perhaps with knowledge, enabled that.

I am ready for Stollings and her staff to leave. I have no idea what happens next and I don’t know that I’m all that concerned about that right now. Let’s fix this problem and then we’ll go to another problem which should be easier to fix.

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