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Report: Texas Tech women's basketball coach fired after players allege 'toxic environment,' culture of abuse

In a lengthy report, USA TODAY interviewed 10 players, two former coaches and two parents about the program. They also obtained two years worth of exit interviews.
Credit: AP
Texas Tech coach Marlene Stollings talks to Chrislyn Carr during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Baylor, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

LUBBOCK, Texas — An article published on Aug. 5 by USA TODAY Sports details an alleged culture of abuse and a "toxic environment" in the Texas Tech women's basketball program under Coach Marlene Stollings

In the article, allegations included, but were not limited to: 

  • Coaches utilizing a heart monitor program in practices and games, where the players were allegedly punished with less playing time if they did not maintain a heart rate capacity of 90%. Texas Tech players claimed in the report that this sometimes drove them to jumping up and down with no regard for the game to elevate their heart rates. 
  • Center Emma Merriweather claimed she was criticized for showing symptoms of depression, which she was reportedly diagnosed with at a later time. Merriweather said an assistant coach told her to snap a rubber band on her wrist when she had a negative thought, and that Stollings confiscated her dog, Mikey – whom Merriweather intended to register as an emotional support pet – and asked boosters if somebody wanted him. Merriwether said Stollings told her the dog was a distraction from basketball, according to the article.
  • Five different Texas Tech players alleged that strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella sexually harassed them. Petrella denied any misconduct in a statement released through his attorney after he voluntarily resigned from his job after the 2020 season ended, the report said.
  • Three Texas Tech players claimed Stollings retaliated against them after they reported the alleged abusive behavior to school officials, including Judi Henry, the executive senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator. 

USA TODAY Sports reported, in collaboration with college sports and investigative media outlet The Intercollegiate, that it had "obtained Texas Tech’s exit interviews with players from the past two seasons via public records requests." USA TODAY Sports said it also interviewed 10 players, two former assistant coaches and two parents about the program for the report.

According to the report, the alleged "toxic atmosphere" in the Texas Tech women's basketball program led to 12 of 21 players leaving the team, seven of whom were recruited by Stollings herself.

“It was basically like a torture mechanism,” Erin DeGrate, who transferred to Baylor in 2019, told USA TODAY Sports regarding the heart rate monitoring program. “I feel like the system wasn’t supposed to be used how she was using it.”

The report also stated that upon player exit interviews, the student-athletes were asked whether there were any “pervasive compliance or societal issues” the department should be aware of. Among the players' responses, according to the report, were “not that you already do not know of” and "you guys are already aware."

Stollings gave USA TODAY Sports the following statement

"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. 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."

To read the full USA TODAY Sports article, click here.

On Aug. 5, Texas Tech Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt announced Stollings had been fired as women's basketball head coach, one day after the publication of the USA TODAY Sports article. 

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