AP NEWS

Review of hoops program recommends adviser for Memphis coach

October 10, 2019

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A report following an independent review of the Memphis women’s basketball program recommends the school hire an executive coach as a mentor and adviser to coach Melissa McFerrin this season after finding a “negative culture and atmosphere.”

Memphis released the report Thursday after hiring The Pictor Group to review the program following complaints of abuse and harassment. The four-month process included reviewing documents and interviewing players along with current and former staff.

The report stated that several members on the women’s basketball staff and players noted a “lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness” by McFerrin with some comments seen as insensitive or racist. Some issues were referred to the Office for Institutional Equity for further review.

“Sharp division exists among staff as to whether the Head Coach is controlling and manipulative, or simply demanding and ‘old school’ in her coaching style and approach,” the report stated. “Equal division exists as to whether the head coach can change or is too set in her ways to do so. Conversely, several individuals indicated that some players were overly sensitive, too soft and not willing to commit to the demands of a Division I program.”

McFerrin is 175-172 in 11 seasons with no NCAA Tournament berths, and the Tigers went 11-20 this past season. She received a two-year extension through 2020-21 in April.

The report recommends Memphis sets clear standards for McFerrin and the team, including the Tigers improving on the court and working to post a team GPA of 3.0 or higher. McFerrin also should log all meetings with her team, individual players, assistants and support staff. A consultant or sports psychologist should be hired to help improve the team culture.

The report also states that former athletic director Tom Bowen did not have “open and honest” communication with McFerrin with “commitments made and not acted upon” leading to the “obvious disparity” between staffing and facilities for the men and women.

Laird Veatch was announced as Memphis’ new athletic director in August to replace Bowen, who stepped down in May. Veatch said Memphis’ willingness to review the women’s program and share the findings was a signal of commitment to him as he considered taking the job.

“Our administrative team and I look forward to working with coach McFerrin and her staff to position us for a successful future,” Veatch said in a statement.

Under Title IX and gender equity issues, the review noted the original plan was for the basketball center on campus to house both the men’s and women’s teams, which was promoted to recruits and current players and coaches. The decision to use the building only for men’s basketball without a plan for the women’s team “placed the program at a serious disadvantage” and hurt McFerrin’s credibility, according to the review.

Other concerns outpointed in the report included the men’s program having two extra positions than the women, while Memphis has not kept salary and incentives for the women’s coaching staff competitive.