MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Unhealthy. Vindictive. Culturally insensitive. Surveys filled out by players on the University of Memphis Women's Basketball team paint a picture of a troubled program with a difficult head coach. The surveys were conducted at the end of the 2018-2019 season. Players said their frustration was so high,and morale so low, at one point mid-season the team was ready to quit to get the attention of administrators.
When asked about their head coach, Melissa McFerrin, Memphis Women's Basketball players said on the survey that she picks on players, manipulates and plays favorites.
They accused her of verbally threatening players during practice. And when asked about specific incidents of disrespect, players said Coach McFerrin called one young woman a "punk-expletive" and told another "I'm not dealing with your B.S. today" in front of the team. Players also said she hit one of their teammates during a game. Players' names were redacted in the copies of the surveys university officials provided WMC Action News 5 through the station's FOIA request.
On Wednesday, University of Memphis officials confirmed an outside agency is conducting a review and assessment of the women's basketball program under Coach McFerrin. And in a statement they said, "It is the University's commitment and responsibility to provide our student-athletes with an opportunity to learn, play and succeed in an environment free from harassment and abuse."
McFerrin's been Ladies Tigers head coach for more than a decade, with a record of 175-172 in 11 seasons. The Tigers went 11-20 last season. McFerrin was previously investigated for similar complaints 3 years ago. The university extended her contract in April through the 2021 season.
Friday morning, Coach McFerrin traveling on the recruiting trail tweeted: "We are headed out to find the few, the brave, the great teammates."
But at least one player said she'd tell recruits to avoid the U of M. "It's not a good place to be," she wrote on her survey, "choose the other school over this."
A couple of players described it as good program that will help you succeed in graduating, but they said McFerrin just tried too hard to relate to the minority players on the team, and often said inappropriate things to them.
WMC Action News 5 reached out to Coach McFerrin for comment Friday, July 5th, 2019, but did not hear back. Results of the external investigation are expected next month.