Former University of Minnesota women's basketball coach Marlene Stollings has been fired from her job at Texas Tech following a USA Today story detailing an abusive culture under her leadership.
In end-of-season exit interviews, players described a toxic atmosphere perpetuated by Stollings and other coaches, USA Today reported. Since Stollings took over in April 2018, 12 out of 21 players have left. Two detailed their allegations to the NCAA, which gave them a waiver allowing them to play again at another school.
USA Today spoke with 10 players, two former assistant coaches and two parents. Among its findings:
- Players said Stollings required them to wear heart rate monitors. If a player's heart rate fell below 90% capacity for more than two minutes, they would be punished via conditioning assignments or loss of game time. After players brought abuse claims to school officials, they say that Stollings retaliated by holding tougher practices.
- Two players said they stopped taking their over-the-counter painkillers in an attempt to use the pain to keep their heart rates up.
- Three international players said during the past two years, they've been "ridiculed, isolated and threatened by coaches."
- Five players also said that strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella sexually harassed the team and made suggestive comments to at least one player. They said he used a therapy technique involving applying pressure to players' chests and pubic areas. Petrella resigned in March and has denied any misconduct.
Texas Tech Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt initially defended the coach. A four-person committee conducted a review of the program, which was leading to steps to improve communication, he said.
But after the USA Today story was published, Hocutt said he spent at least three hours in meetings with players and coaches. He announced the firing in a one-sentence statement Thursday.
USA Today reported Friday morning that assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins was also fired. A player had said she was reprimanded by coaches for showing signs of depression, for which she eventually was diagnosed. Dawkins told her to snap a rubber band on her wrist whenever she had a negative thought, the player said.
Dawkins also worked under Stollings at the University of Minnesota from 2014-18, following her to Texas Tech.
Some of Stollings' former players, including University of Minnesota alumni, have hinted at issues on social media.
Former Gophers player Annalese Lamke, who played under Stollings, tweeted: "Unfortunately, these type of incidents weren’t just isolated to Texas Tech... Administrators must do a better job researching who they are hiring to protect their athletes!"
She was retweeted by several of her former Gophers teammates.
"Waking up hearing Coach Stollings was fired from @TexasTech. I'm wearing a VCU practice jersey. Why do I still hold on to gear that was used to make me think that verbal abuse was ok? A testament to the mind games of collegiate athletics. We hold in pain and pretend it's pride," former Virginia Commonwealth University player Shekinah Henry tweeted.
Stollings hired at U by Norwood Teague
Stollings left Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 when she was hired to coach the University of Minnesota women's basketball team by then-Athletic Director Norwood Teague and his top assistant, Mike Ellis. All three had previously worked at VCU.
Right around the time Teague left for the U — the University announced his hiring in April and he began July 1 — the VCU athletics department hired Stollings in June 2012. She replaced Beth Cunningham as the head women's basketball coach, who had resigned and filed a Title IX complaint against Teague.
Stollings also had participated in Ellis' Villa 7 consortium, a program for introducing athletics directors to assistant coaches, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch. Ellis was VCU's deputy athletics director when she was hired.
The University of Minnesota had paid a search firm roughly $113,000 to find its next athletic director in 2012. That search firm did not turn up the Title IX complaint filed against Teague by Cunningham.
In July 2012, one month after Teague started at the University of Minnesota, VCU paid $125,000 in a settlement to Cunningham over the gender discrimination complaint.
Teague had also signed a document at the end of the search process pledging he had no prior issues of concern.
The University of Minnesota said it first learned of the settlement in December 2012 in conjunction with a federal Title IX complaint regarding Teague senior associate athletics director Regina Sullivan filed against the university. Sullivan had held her position for more than a decade until Teague fired her in October 2012. She received a $175,000 settlement in November 2013.
In 2015, two University of Minnesota women members of then-President Eric Kaler's senior leadership team said Teague sexually harassed them during a July University-sponsored senior retreat. They said he inappropriately touched both of them during the event, and sent a series of graphic texts to one of them.
Teague admitted to the incidents and resigned in early August 2015. Afterward, additional women came forward with similar complaints.
His top assistant, executive associate athletics director Mike Ellis, in August also had five reports through the University's confidential complaint system concerning him. He eventually resigned two months later, denying wrongdoing.
An external review in December 2015 said that top University officials were not previously aware of issues with Teague, and that the athletics culture did not overall tolerate sexual harassment or abuse.
Stollings left the U for Texas Tech after the 2017-18 season and was replaced by Lindsay Whalen of the Minnesota Lynx.