Investigation finds ‘negative culture and atmosphere’ in U of M women’s basketball

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  The University of Memphis released an outside firm’s report into the women’s basketball program after allegations of harassment and abuse surfaced.

Four months ago, the university hired The Pictor Group to conduct an extensive review of the program, and since then they have spoken with current and former staff members along with student athletes.

What they found was troubling.

Melissa McFerrin

The nine-page report begins with: “Generally, there is a negative culture and atmosphere surrounding the Program. A number of former student-athletes reported having a poor experience and that the Head Coach’s communication style and approach was not conducive to team-building and high performance.”

They described head coach Melissa McFerrin’s communication style as “intense,” “demeaning,” “insensitive” and sometimes even “racist,” though there was no proof that those comments were made with ill intent. It also said that she “lacks open dialogue with the team as a whole.”

There were also noted problems with some of the student athletes as well. The report noted a lack of communication and respect for the coaching staff, an unwillingness to embrace requirements of a Division 1 program and a lack of understanding on expectations.

Higher up, the Pictor Group claimed that the school and former athletic director Tom Bowen hadn’t done their job when it came to supporting the program.

“The athletics administration has not provided the necessary support and direction for the women’s basketball program in recent years. It appears that the relationship between the former Athletics Director and the Head Women’s Basketball Coach deteriorated significantly due to promises that were made and not kept, and a lack of honesty and accountability.”

They specifically noted that the women’s basketball facilities were not on par with those of the men’s.

The report concluded 11 recommendations for program management, and 13 recommendations for McFerrin moving forward, although it stops short of saying that she should be relieved of duty.

Read the full report here

The university said they are now taking steps to address these issues.  They will soon be hiring additional staff for the program and investing $2.8 million in the remodeling of Elma Roane Fieldhouse.

“The health and well-being of our student-athletes is our highest priority. I have complete confidence in our athletic leadership to develop and implement a plan to address all identified areas of concern, position the program for success and move the Athletic Department forward,” said  Dr. M. David Rudd.

“Action plans are now in place to insure the success of our program. I am committed to that action plan to allow me to be more fully effective for our team, and I trust that the department and University will also fulfill commitments and support our women’s basketball student-athletes,” said coach Melissa McFerrin.

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