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An internal review of the Texas Tech softball program that led to the resignation of its coach found that in addition to allegations of abuse there were issues regarding freedom of religion.
The school released its review on Wednesday and detailed accusations of a toxic atmosphere, racism and “performance contracts related to weight loss.” It also found that three baptisms took place within the team facilities of the public school’s grounds.
Coach Adrian Gregory stepped down last week after an internal review of her program and questions from USA Today Sports to the school regarding allegations of player abuse. It comes after women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings was fired in August following a mass exodus of players who accused her of verbal abuse and creating a “toxic atmosphere.”
In a letter attached to the review, Gregory said she was aware of issues that were raised and believed each had been resolved or that progress was being made upon addressing them.
Texas Tech finds baptisms in internal athletics review
Texas Tech found from its interviews of 29 individuals close to the program that three baptisms occurred. They were reportedly for two student-athletes and the associate head coach, according to USA Today Sports.
Trenity Edwards, the team’s best hitter during her sophomore 2019 season, was baptized at the facility on May 12, 2019, and provided video to USA Today. The school said it had requested, but not yet received, video from one of the baptisms.
“What brought me to Christ, honestly, was this team and Coach G,’’ Edwards said in the video, referring to Gregory as she sat in a metal tub full of water during a baptism performed by Brandi Cantrell, a Fellowship of Christian Athletes volunteer chaplain.
The same day, associate head coach Sam Marder was baptized, Edwards said via USA Today Sports. Marder is a former Ohio State catcher and member of its Hall of Fame who starred in the National Pro Fastpitch league. She was named the “Marty Glickman Outstanding Jewish Scholastic Athlete of the Year” in 2010.
Yvonne Whaley was also baptized on a separate occasion, per USA Today Sports. They were all done in the presence of Gregory.
Religious freedom questioned with on-campus baptisms
In its internal review, Texas Tech wrote that most of the athletes identified as Christian and said prayer was common, including before the game and at pre-game meals. They were mostly Christian-based and led by either a student-athlete or head coach, per the review.
“Although not communicated definitively as being voluntary, most agreed that participation in any faith-based activity was indeed voluntary,” the report read. “Attendance at any community church was not a requirement nor was participation in a Bible study, led by the FCA volunteer Chaplain, which commonly took place 15 minutes prior to practices.”
Religion’s place in secondary and collegiate education is a heated issue. The Supreme Court prohibited school-sponsored prayer in a landmark 1963 ruling. It has stressed that public schools, which receive federal funding, cannot indoctrinate children or individuals in religion. Instead it should be an individual choice, as stated in the division of church and state. What’s tough is determining when it is a group of individuals coming together, or if the individuals feel they must go along with it.
The thinking is a coach holds power and sway with players who might fear a loss of playing time or retribution if they don’t fall into line with how a program runs.
‘Racially insensitive’ incidents confirmed via review
Two racially insensitive incidents were found to have taken place in the 2018-19 season, per the report. In the first incident, a Black player was told to move ahead in line so she could work on a different skill after hitting. A white player then said to her, “Get to the back of the line Rosa [Parks],” per the report.
The teammate reportedly apologized in a player-only meeting, though those interviewed for the report said it “appeared forced and lacked genuineness.” Players reportedly said Gregory did not do enough to handle the situation.
In another incident, a Black player was wearing her hair down for the first time that season and the coach told other athletes, “Who is going to tell [her] to put her hair up?” It reportedly made teammates upset because she was wearing it down to honor her sister, who has a medical condition.
Once explained to the head coach, she was “permitted to wear her hair down” for remaining games. There were split opinions on if the incident was racially charged since they felt it would have been addressed with a white student, per the report.
In a statement attached to the report, Gregory explained the incident the same way and said she apologized after the explanation and followed up a few days later to check in.
Allegations of grabbing players
The review focused on allegations that Gregory, who had been with the program since 2014, grabbed three players. It found she grabbed two players and an assistant coach during a series against New Mexico State. The coach provided a photo showing a bruise, per the report. The student-athlete who saw believed it was to get the coach’s attention.
“One of the student-athletes who allegedly had been grabbed denied that she was ever grabbed by the head coach. The second student-athlete acknowledged she was grabbed on the arm by the head coach. She reported that she felt “belittled” by the head coach’s action, but she did not believe the actions of the head coach were meant to hurt her, nor did she experience any pain or physical injury.”
Gregory denied grabbing any of the student-athletes or coaches “in any way that would cause harm or injury to them.”
“I would never cross that line,” she said in the statement. “As a coach, the safety and trust of my student-athletes are my utmost priorities.”
There were reported incidents of “performance contracts related to weight loss,” which required athletes to lose a certain amount of weight per week or else run extra conditioning while being heart-rate monitored.
Overall, the university said a description of the program’s culture was difficult. Some players described it in glowing terms (caring, family-like, hard-working) while others said there was tension and a lack of communication.
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