Texas Tech Women's Basketball Coach Marlene Stollings Accused of Taking a Player's Dog Away

Marlene Stollings
G Fiume/Getty Images

USA Today published an alarming investigative report this morning that chronicles the tumultuous two-year tenure of Texas Tech women's basketball coach Marlene Stollings. During that span, 12 players have left against a backdrop of abuse allegations. Through player exit interviews obtained via FOIA and their own conversations with those who have departed the Red Raiders program, a laundry list of troubling claims emerged:

■ 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.

The whole thing is worth reading if you have a strong stomach for this kind of thing. One anecdote jumps off the page in a way few things have ever done, though, and it comes from center Emma Merriweather, who eventually transferred to Kansas. Think of the most cartoonish villain behavior you can, then consider if it can possibly stack up to this.

On the bus ride home that day, Merriweather said she had a panic attack and the driver pulled over to make sure she was OK. Merriweather also had panic attacks in the stairway on her way to workouts, she said, fearing her coaches’ tempers. Merriweather said she was scolded for displaying symptoms of depression, for which she said she was later diagnosed. Merriweather said these feelings were exacerbated after Stollings confiscated her dog, Mikey, whom she intended to register as an emotional-support pet. Merriweather said Stollings told her a dog was a distraction from basketball, and asked a group of boosters if somebody wanted the dog. She cried as a woman she’d never met took Mikey away. “She just tore him away from me,” Merriweather said.

Jesus. That's just Cruella de Vil stuff right there. I was not under the impression a coach had the legal authority to take away anyone's pet dog, even one of their players. Through the years we've all grown a bit numb to eccentric collegiate power brokers doing eccentric, questionable things. But man... This may take the cake.