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Report calls Texas Tech women’s hoops program ‘toxic’

Coach Marlene Stollings reportedly created a ‘toxic environment’ and a ‘culture of abuse’ in the Texas Tech women’s basketball program since taking over in 2018, according to former players, parents, and assistant coaches. 

A dozen players have transferred out of Lubbock over the past two seasons, including seven who were recruited under Stollings.

USA Today, in collaboration with The Intercollegiate, a college sports investigative media outlet, interviewed 10 players, two former assistant coaches and two parents about the program, with six players speaking on condition of anonymity.

Players alleged that they were ridiculed about their level of physical fitness, which the coaches measured using heart monitors. 

‘It was basically like a torture mechanism,’ said Erin DeGrate, who transferred to Baylor in 2019. ‘I feel like the system wasn’t supposed to be used how she was using it.’ 

One player said she was admonished for displaying symptoms of depression. Three international players said they felt ‘isolated and threatened’ by coaches. And five players made allegations of sexual harassment against former strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella, who resigned in March but denies the allegations. 

‘It was just the feeling of fear, anxiety, depression,’ said guard Mia Castaneda, who transferred to Washburn University in Kansas last year. ‘And it wasn’t just a few people — it was our entire team. They were breaking not just athletes, they were breaking people. And they didn’t realize that.’ 

Stollings, whose Lady Raiders finished 14-17 in 2018-19 and 18-11 in 2019-20, provided a statement to USA Today. 

‘We know change is difficult and that has been no different at Texas Tech. Some wonderful young women have decided to leave our program and pursue their dreams elsewhere. I hope they have found everything they are looking for at their new destination,’ read the statement, in part.

‘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. I want our students, fans and alumni to know we are committed to winning championships at Texas Tech and doing it the right way through hard work, accountability and fierce determination.’

The university said it formed a committee to review the players’ allegations.

Athletic director Kirby Hocutt gave his own statement to USA Today. 

‘Earlier this year, we were made aware of allegations of inappropriate behavior by a support staff member of our women’s basketball program,’ Hocutt said. ‘When the individual was confronted with the allegations, the individual resigned from their position before any university review could take place. 

‘Additionally, based on information received we conducted an in-depth program review of our women’s basketball program. … I have thoroughly discussed this review with coach Stollings and am confident that we are taking appropriate steps to improve the relationship and communication between coaches and student-athletes so that we can continue to grow the success of our program both on and off the court.’ 

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