Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings has been accused of creating a toxic team environment. Multiple players told the USA Today what playing for Stollings is allegedly like and level many accusations against the coach, which include sexual harassment, name-calling and stealing a player’s dog.
Since she took over in 2018, 12 players have left Stollings’ program. According to the report, she would routinely verbally abuse players, calling them “fat pig,” and the abuse was worse for the three international players.
Former center Emma Merriweather claims that Stollings took her dog away from her and gave it to a booster.
“She just tore him away from me,” Merriweather said. The center was using the dog to help with her diagnosed issues with depression. Stollings, though, allegedly believed that the dog would be a distraction from basketball.
Merriweather also accused the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Ralph Petrella, of body shaming her in front of her teammates. She said Petrella, along with Stollings, called her body “disgusting.” The behavior led to Merriweather having panic attacks and being reprimanded by the two coaches for showing signs of depression and anxiety. She even said that she was forced to get on the scale in front of the men’s basketball team.
“A lot of these girls had never experienced depression or extreme anxiety before they came to Tech and they experienced it with Marlene,” Merriweather told USA Today. “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.”
Five players have accused Petrella of sexual assault. One claims he went under her sports bra and shorts and others said he put pressure on the players’ chest and groin saying it was part of a “reflexive performance reset” technique. He also allegedly called players “sexy” and “beautiful.”
Another member of Stollings staff, assistant coach Nikita Lowry Dawkins, allegedly made Merriweather snap a rubber band on her wrist when she had negative thoughts. In 2003, Dawkins was fired as the head coach of New Mexico State after an investigation by the school found that she “threatened to kill one player, pulled another player’s hair and pushed players in conditioning to the point that some became sick,” according to USA Today.
Petrella denied any accusation of “inappropriate conduct” to USA Today and had a “voluntary” resignation after the 2020 season.
In a statement to USA Today, Stollings said she is “developing a disciplined approach” for players.
“We know change is difficult and that has been no different at Texas Tech. Some wonderful young women have decided to leave our program and pursue their dreams elsewhere. I hope they have found everything they are looking for at their new destination,” Stollings said. “Our administration and my staff believe in the way we are building and turning this program around here. Our student-athletes are developing a disciplined approach both on and off the court.