After reports of pervasive abuse in its women's basketball program, Texas Tech has fired head coach Marlene Stollings and assistant Nikita Lowry Dawkins. The firings were prompted by 10 players accusing the school of permitting a culture of verbal and emotional abuse and sexual harassment. The players' claims were made in exit interviews over the past two seasons, ESPN reports. The Intercollegiate made an open records request for the interviews, and USA Today investigated the claims. In a news conference Friday in which he promised changes, athletic director Kirby Hocutt praised the players who came forward for their courage and apologized to them. "This should be the best years of their lives," he said. "We should be mentoring them for life and to learn lessons they will carry with them forever. That's not been their experience."
One of the players' claims involved a heart monitoring system they said was used punitively. They had to keep a heart rate of 90% of capacity during games—which an expert called "very difficult"— or lose playing time and undergo more conditioning. A strength coach who resigned in March applied pressure to some players’ chests and pubic bones and groins as a therapy technique, players said, and sexually harassed them. One player said coaches scolded her for showing signs of depression, which she was later diagnosed as suffering from. Three international players reportedly were ridiculed and threatened by coaches. When they reported the abuse to school officials, Stollings made practices tougher, players said. "We have failed them," Hocutt said, "and we have to do better." (More women's basketball stories.)