Athletic director Kirby Hocutt apologized to the players in a news conference Friday, vowing to fix the program.
“We have failed them and we have to do better,” Hocutt said. “They are strong and I appreciate the strength and the courage that they have displayed. These should be the best years of their lives. We should be mentoring them for life and to learn lessons that they will carry with them forever. That’s not been their experience. And for that, I apologize. And we’re going to get this right.”
Hocutt said assistant coach Malikah Willis will stay on in her role but “other members of the women’s basketball coaching staff have been let go.”
Per the USA Today report, Lady Raiders players described a mandate requiring them to wear heart-rate monitors for every game, practice and workout. Stollings required players to play and practice with a heart rate at 90 percent capacity and would display the results for each player on a whiteboard every Monday, split up by “Made!” and “OFF” categories. Those whose heart rate would drop below 90 percent for more than two minutes of game time would be designated as “OFF.” Players were not privy to their own heart rate data.
“It was basically like a torture mechanism,” center Erin DeGrate is quoted as saying. “I feel like the system wasn’t supposed to be used how she was using it.” DeGrate transferred to Big 12 rival Baylor in 2019.
Players said they would jump up and down during games to comply with Stollings’ demands.
“It just messed with our mental (health),” one player told USA Today. “I’d be on the court and wouldn’t be thinking about winning or losing or scoring or not. It’s: ‘Is my heart rate enough?’ ”
Marcella LaMark said that in the fall of 2018 that Stollings told her to train and eat by herself because she was hazardous to her teammates.
“I was ‘dangerous’ to them and I could hurt them because I was not in shape,” said LaMark, who transferred to Pittsburgh. “I had to be in a different environment the whole time.”
LaMark said strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella, who worked under Stollings in the same capacity at Minnesota and VCU and resigned from Texas Tech following the 2019-2020 season, told her she wasn’t giving enough effort, according to her heart-rate data.
Emma Merriweather, who transferred to Kansas, detailed events that led to her depression.
One morning in March of 2019, after not yet having eaten breakfast, she went to get a snack from the weight room. Petrella ordered her onto a scale and, unhappy with the results, yelled her weight in front of the men’s basketball team and berated her.
“I was just so embarrassed,” Merriweather said. “I think that might have been the most embarrassing moment of my life.”
She added that experience led to a panic attack on the bus ride home, causing the bus driver to pull over and check on her. Merriweather said she would have panic attacks before workouts because of the coaches’ tempers.
Assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins, according to Merriweather, told her to stop showing up to practice distressed because it could bring the rest of the team down. She even gave Merriweather a rubber band to wear on her wrist and snap each time she had a bad thought.
Merriweather, who was later diagnosed with depression, said she intended to register her dog as an emotional-support pet but Stollings took the dog and gave it away, calling it a distraction.
“A lot of these girls had never experienced depression or extreme anxiety before they came to Tech and they experienced it with Marlene,” Merriweather said. “Coach Marlene was evil and manipulative and vindictive in a quiet watered-down manner, so you can’t outwardly say, ‘This person is evil.’ … Her values are not in protecting her team and the girls.
“That woman is a millionaire off being evil.”
Multiple players told USA Today that Petrella sexually harassed players and used reflexive performance reset (RPR) recovery techniques to touch their chests, pubic bones and groins. One player recalled Petrella reaching under her sports bra and under her spandex shorts to apply the technique.
In a statement to USA Today through his attorney, Petrella denied any wrongdoing at Texas Tech and said he voluntarily resigned.
Nine Lady Raiders completed an exit interview in the form of a survey software program after the 2018-2019 season. The software would score them as “promoters,” “passives” or “detractors.” Each of the nine players expressed their displeasure with the program’s culture and were designated as a “detractor. No other Texas Tech team had even half of their players labeled as “detractors.”
Hocutt said after reviewing the surveys, he began going to the locker room after games and visiting practices when possible this past season. He set up a four-person committee to review the allegations surrounding the program and its culture. Instead of waiting for a written account, he received a verbal report.
He said Friday that he will take the players’ experiences into account as the search for a new head coach continues.
“We’re gonna look for somebody who can come in here with high character and integrity and build a solid foundation of genuine relationships and trust with these young women and can help us heal the scars of what they have had to endure,” he said.
Read more on college sports: