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.
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.
Stollings, who was born in Portsmouth, starred at Eastern High School — and was a two-time Ohio Division III Player of the Year and named Ms. Basketball in the state in 1993.
She was a four-time Southern Ohio Conference Division I Player of the Year, and is considered one of the finest scorers to ever play in basketball-rich Ohio.
While at Eastern, she became the all-time leading scorer —men and women — in Ohio with 3,514 points.
She averaged 28.4 points per game as a freshman, 34.7 as a sophomore, 40.3 as a junior and 42.5 as a senior.
She earned Kodak All-American honors her senior season, and her name currently appears more than 30 times in the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) record books.
She also averaged seven rebounds, seven steals and six assists per game as a senior.
Stollings began her collegiate playing career at Ohio State, where she was a two-time scholar-athlete for the Buckeyes.
She then transferred to Ohio University, where she earned first-team all-Mid-American Conference honors after finishing eighth in the nation and leading the league in scoring at 23 points per game her senior year.
She served as team captain for the Bobcats and earned Kodak All-American Honorable Mention honors in 1998.
Stollings remains in the Ohio record books with 10 three-point baskets and 41 points scored in a single game.
A school-record 87 three-pointers contributed to her 642 points — the third-highest total in OU history.
She was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame five years ago.