MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A third-party assessment of the University of Memphis women’s basketball program details division among the staff and players, and a rift between the program as a whole and its overseeing athletic department.
The PICTOR Group studied the team and conducted interviews of former players and coaches that mapped out issues with the head coach.
This follows a player survey done at the end of the 2018-19 season that revealed players were so frustrated with the program, they considered quitting to get the attention of the administrators. Players also alleged head coach Melissa McFerrin verbally threatened them during practice and disrespected them.
The university commissioned the probe this summer, which was completed in September. The university released the findings publicly Thursday.
“There is a negative culture and atmosphere surrounding the program” the report reads.
Some issues the investigators note from former players are head coach Melissa McFerrin’s leadership style and perceived favoritism toward certain players.
A lack of communication, cultural insensitivity, coaching staff turnover, student athletes lacking commitment to the program, and contentious relationships were all noted as problems within the program.
The review states that division exists as to whether McFerrin is “controlling and manipulative” or “old school in her coaching style and approach.” The review also said some players may have been “overly sensitive, too soft, and not willing to commit” to the demands of a Division I basketball program.
The group also says the athletics administration has not given adequate support to the women’s basketball in recent years, in part due to a strained relationship between McFerrin and former athletic director Tom Bowen. Consultants point to a lack of improvements at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, where the Lady Tigers play.
This, as a result, has led to a lack of commitment to the women's basketball program along with players who don't think the head coach is fighting on their behalf, the report notes. Part of this includes the women's facilities not matching up to the men's.
The consulting firm made 11 recommendations for improvement for the university regarding program management. They also made 13 recommendation for McFerrin, stating the university should identify an executive coach to serve as a mentor and advisor for McFerrin through spring of 2020.
“The University is sharing this information as it places the highest value on transparency, integrity, and accountability to our student-athletes and the public we serve,” said UofM President M. David Rudd, “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.”
“I appreciate the leadership of President Rudd and our university administration for their commitment to supporting our student athletes and coaches,” said Laird Veatch, new University of Memphis Athletic Director, “Our administrative team and I look forward to working with Coach McFerrin and her staff to position us for a successful future.”
McFerrin spoke with WMC Action News 5 on Thursday, just hours after the report was released.
“We are in the locker room every day getting to know each other better. We area in the locker room everyday planning on the upcoming season. Our focus is on our team and our season, and that’s exactly where it should be in October,” McFerrin said, “We are going to let the statements that Dr. Rudd, myself, and our new athletic director made, we are going to let those stand as the statement to the report along with the entirety of the report.”
Read the complete report below.