Texas Tech fires women's basketball coach Marlene Stollings after player exodus, abuse allegations

Marlene Stollings on the sideline
Marlene Stollings lost her job on Thursday. (AP Photo/Rod Aydelotte, File)

Texas Tech has fired women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings.

The program made the announcement Thursday evening following a mass exodus of players who accused Stollings of verbal abuse and creating a “toxic atmosphere.”

“Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has announced the termination of Lady Raider basketball head coach Marlene Stollings effective immediately,” a release from the school reads.

Twelve of the 21 women who played for Texas Tech since Stollings took over the program in 2018 have left.

Damning report leads to firing

A USA Today investigation published Wednesday obtained exit interviews players had with the school. Players said in those interviews that they felt ridiculed and isolated under Stollings and accused former strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella of berating and sexually harassing them, according to the report.

Stollings recruited seven of the 12 players who left.

From the USA Today report:

  • The emphasis on maintaining an elevated heart rate during play drove two players to eschew taking over-the-counter painkillers in an effort to use the pain to keep their heart rates spiked.

  • The three international players on rosters the past two seasons allegedly faced treatment such as being ridiculed, isolated and threatened by coaches. Brazil native Marcella LaMark said Stollings told LaMark her fitness lagged so far behind teammates that she was “dangerous” to them.

  • Emma Merriweather, a 6-5 center, said she was admonished by coaches for displaying symptoms of depression, for which she was eventually diagnosed. She was also allegedly told by assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins to snap a rubber band on her wrist when she had a negative thought.

  • Five players alleged strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella sexually harassed players, making suggestive comments to one player and using a therapy technique that involved applying pressure to some players’ chests and pubic bones and groins. Petrella, who denies any misconduct, resigned in March after the season.

  • Three players said Stollings retaliated by holding tougher practices after they brought abuse claims to school officials, including Judi Henry, executive senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator.

AD initially vouched for Stollings

Athletic director Kirby Hocutt initially told USA Today that the department conducted a review of the program and discussed the findings with Stollings while expressing confidence “that we are taking appropriate steps to improve the relationship and communication between coaches and student-athletes.”

Stollings at that time had maintained her job.

Things changed after meeting with players

After the USA Today report was published, Hocutt released a statement that he met with players Wednesday night and planned to do so again on Thursday.

“We will continue our conversation tomorrow to work through concerns about our program as we seek a path forward to make sure we are providing an environment to educate, serve and grow our student-athletes,” Hocutt’s statement read.

By Thursday night, Stollings was fired.

Stollings, who committed to “winning championships at Texas Tech and doing it the right way” in response to USA Today, has not publicly addressed her termination.

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