LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech fired women's basketball coach Marlene Stollings on Thursday, a day after a scathing newspaper report alleging a culture of abuse in her program.
Athletic director Kirby Hocutt announced the firing in a one-sentence statement while adding that he planned to address the decision Friday.
Players made claims of abuse 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, which also reported Friday morning that assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins was also fired.
Stollings was hired by Minnesota in 2014 and coached the Gophers for four seasons until leaving for Texas Tech. She had been the women's coach at Virginia Commonwealth, where she worked for athletic director Norwood Teague, who had been hired by Minnesota in 2012. Dawkins was on Stollings' staff with the Gophers before joining her at Texas Tech.
Teague resigned in August 2015, following revelations that he sexually harassed two female university employees — inappropriately touching both at a university-sponsored event, and sending a slew of graphic texts to one. Teague now works for a business recruiting firm in North Carolina.
While it's unclear whether similar issues were present at Stollings' previous career stops, some of her former players have hinted at problems on social media.
Former Gophers player Annalese Lamke, who played under Stollings at Minnesota and was a graduate assistant coach last season at Bethel University, sent this tweet Wednesday which was retweeted by several of her former Gophers teammates:
At Texas Tech, Stollings' 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.
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.
Over two years, 12 of 21 players left the program, including seven recruited under Stollings, according to the report. She defending her program in a statement to the newspaper.
Hocutt initially defended the coach as well, saying he was confident steps were being taken to improve communication in the program following a review of the program by a four-person committee.
After the report was published, Hocutt said he spent more than an hour meeting with players and more than two hours in talks with players and coaches and that those discussions would continue Thursday. The firing was announced late Thursday.
The pandemic-shortened season that ended in March was Stollings’ second at Texas 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.
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.
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.”
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.
In 2003, Lowry Dawkins was fired at New Mexico State, where Stollings had been her assistant. The USA Today report said "she was removed following a school investigation 'into allegations of mental and physical abuse, and other conduct that has jeopardized the health, safety, welfare and education of student-athletes under your charge,' according to a copy of the school’s termination notice."