Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings is being accused of overseeing a ‘culture of abuse,’ which, as one transfer has revealed, including the confiscation of her dog.
As now-former Red Raiders player Emma Merriweather told USA Today and later alleged on social media, Stollings took away her new dog, Mickey, and gave it to a booster, arguing that the canine would be a distraction from basketball.
Merriweather, who has since transferred to Kansas, had intended to register Mickey as an emotional support pet because she was battling depression – a condition for which she was later diagnosed.
Stollings was unmoved, according to Merriweather.
‘Coach pulled me aside after a week of owning him to tell me that he was going to distract me from basketball,’Merriweather wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. ‘I begged her to let me keep him and explained why I needed him, but she said no, that she would buy me whatever dog I wanted after I graduated.
‘In this talk, she explained to me how working harder and getting in shape will make me feel better,’ she continued. ‘That night she did text me asking about my issues and if I wanted to see someone for them. I said no because of how she spoke about therapy and poor mental health as a sign of weakness in practices.
‘She asked for pictures of Mickey, and the next day she told me someone was coming to take him. She did not know the woman, and neither did I. The woman allowed me to visit him once and then blocked my number when I asked to see him again. Granted, she was unaware of the circumstances, she’s good with dogs and Mickey is well taken care of.’
Merriweather is one of 12 players who have transferred out of Texas Tech since Stollings became coach in 2018. Seven of those players were recruited under Stollings.
Texas Tech women’s basketball players have accused coach Marlene Stollings and her staff of fostering a culture of abuse that led to an exodus from the program, according to a report published Wednesday.
Players dreaded a heart monitoring system they said was misused in punitive ways, had to endure demeaning and threatening comments and were subject to sexually suggestive behavior from a strength coach who has since resigned, according to the report.
The players made the claims over the past two years in season-ending exit interviews that were obtained through an open records request by The Intercollegiate, an investigative media outlet for college sports. The details were published by USA Today.
Players said the coaching staff demanded that they maintain a heart rate of at least 90% of capacity during games and that they faced loss of playing time or more conditioning work if they didn’t. A pediatric sports medicine director said maintaining a heart rate that high would be ‘very difficult’ to do.
‘It was basically like a torture mechanism,’ said Erin DeGrate, who played her final season as a grad transfer with defending national champion Baylor. DeGrate played two seasons at Texas Tech after transferring from Louisville. ‘I feel like the system wasn’t being used how she was using it.’
Stollings defending her program in a statement to the newspaper. The school didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Tech. She had previously turned around the programs at Minnesota and VCU and has done the same with the Red Raiders, a once-proud program that has fallen on hard times. Texas Tech finished 18-11 in Stollings’ second season after going 7-23 the year before she arrived.
‘We know change is difficult and that has been no different at Texas Tech,’ Stollings 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.’
Athletic director Kirby Hocutt said a four-person committee conducted a review of the program, and said the review had been discussed with Stollings. Hocutt said he was ‘confident we are taking appropriate steps to improve the relationship and communication between coaches and student-athletes.’
After the story was published, Hocutt issued another statement saying he met Wednesday with players for more than an hour and then with players 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,’ Hocutt 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.’
Emma Merriweather, a center who transferred to Kansas, said she was mocked about her weight in front of men’s basketball players and admonished over showing signs of depression. She was later diagnosed with depression.
‘It was just the feeling of fear, anxiety, depression,’ said Mia Castaneda, who transferred to Washburn. ‘And it wasn’t just a few people. It was our entire team. ‘They were breaking not just athletes, they were breaking people.’
Brazilian center Marcella LaMark said she was called ‘dangerous’ by Stollings because the coach said her fitness lagged so far behind her teammates. LaMark transferred to Pittsburgh.
Several players said coaches and staff berated post players with remarks such as ‘fat pig’ and ‘grossly out of shape’ and ‘gross disproportional.’
‘It’s so much manipulation and psychological stress,’ LaMark said. ‘When you’re an international player, you cannot just go back to your parents.’
Strength coach Ralph Petrella sometimes threatened players with violence and made sexually suggestive remarks, players said. One player accused him of reaching under her sports bra and spandex shorts as part of a technique to recover from physical exertion.
Petrella, who denied the allegations through his attorney, resigned about the same time the player reported the incident to a Title IX administrator.