August 8, 2020 

Texas Tech fires Stollings after reports of abusive culture

Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt addresses the media a day after the firing of Lady Raider's Head Coach Marlene Stollings

Sitting in front of an image of United Supermarkets Arena, home of the Texas Tech basketball programs, athletic director Kirby Hocutt prepared to address the media the day after the firing of two-year Lady Raiders Head Coach Marlene Stollings.

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Stollings’ contract with Texas Tech was terminated on the basis of “objectionable behavior” following Jori Epstein and Daniel Libit’s article detailing a toxic culture full of emotional, mental and sexual abuse enabled by Stollings.

The same day, Hocutt met with the Lady Raiders team and coaching staff, after two previous scheduled meetings in July were postponed for various reasons, to speak about an exit report of an in-depth review of the program.

The news of Stollings’ termination was first reported by Jori Epstein.

News of Stollings’ termination via Jori Epstein on Twitter

Hocutt detailed the time line of events in the opening statement:

April 9th, 2018: Stollings is hired as the new Lady Raiders’ head coach to take over a failing program after a successful four year stint with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

After 2018-2019 season:

A few members of the Lady Raiders visited senior woman administrator Dr. Judy Henry sharing concerns over things they witnessed and were concerned about that occurred within the program. Henry voiced her concerns to Stollings, granting the players anonymity, and things seemed to have improved.

From feedback from the end of season survey instrument, there were some comments made that didn’t align with Hocutt and Dr. Henry’s expectations and they met with Stollings, who indicated that things would change to secure a healthier environment.

2019-2020 season:

Hocutt received indication that the environment wasn’t improving so he began going to the locker room after home games and practices when he was able. He deemed it necessary to have an in-depth review of the program at the conclusion of the season.

He appointed Deputy Athletics Director Tony Hernandez, Faculty Athletic Representative Brian Shannon, Texas Tech Title IX director and Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Jodie Billingsley to serve in a committee to lead the review.

There was a Title IX complaint against former strength and conditioning coach Ralph Petrella for sexual misconduct. He resigned on March 27.

Hocutt received a verbal report in June and sat down with Collings in early June to discuss the findings. He met with the team and coaches on August 5 and fired Stollings on August 6, as well as the whole coaching staff excluding assistant coach Melissa Willis.

During Stollings’ tenure, 12 players transferred out of the program with seven of them being those she personally recruited, according to Epstein and Libit.

The twelve students who transferred out of Tech under Stollings are Emma Merriweather to Kansas, Marcella LaMark to Pittsburgh, Erin DeGrate to Baylor, Mia Castaneda to Washburn, Shug Dickson to Missouri, Sydney Goodson to Kansas State, Angel Hayden to Angelo State, Kiara Shoals to UTSA, Nailah Dillard to Nebraska, Tihana Stojsavljevic to Virgina, Emma Villas-Gomis to North Texas and Eryka Sydney to Houston.

Hocutt stated that they were aware of the the concerns from the players but weren’t aware of the magnitude of how it affected them personally.

When Libit asked if Hocutt should still ethically remain athletic director given that he “abided by this coach for two years of fairly consistent and alarming allegations” Hocutt said, “…each and everyday I guarantee you that I give my absolute best to educate, serve and grow fearless champions to do what we have to do to trains young men and women and prepare them for life after they leave college with a degree from Texas Tech…as far as should I continue as Athletic’s Director at Texas Tech, that is President [Lawrence] Schovanec’s decision.”

Hocutt said the situation wasn’t just a basketball matter, but was an interpersonal matter that stemmed off the court despite the program’s success on the court. He’s been in contact with the newest signees about getting to campus and talked openly about Stollings with them.

As of the time of the press conference, he hasn’t heard if any are going to opt to transfer but is hopeful that they decide to ultimately stay and be a part of the Lady Raider program and said wants the students to trust the athletics department.

“…we’re going to ensure that culture is in alignment with our expectations and that is to prepare young people for life both on and off the basketball court…”

Texas Tech is currently in the process of finding a new head coach for the 2020-21 season.

Written by Lauren Rosenberg

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