Review: Title IX Issues in Memphis Women's Basketball

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An external investigation concerning allegations of mistreatment and verbal abuse within the University of Memphis women's basketball team concluded there is “a negative culture and atmosphere surrounding the program,” but did not recommend the firing of coach Melissa McFerrin, according to a report released Thursday.

As reported by The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, the investigation determined that the program’s poor culture was due, in part, to the deterioration of the relationship between McFerrin and former athletic director Tom Bowen, as well as Title IX disparities between the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

The biggest concern, according to the report, was Memphis’ decision to house only the men’s basketball program at the $21-million Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center without a viable and equitable plan for women’s basketball. This, the investigation claimed, placed the women’s program at a serious disadvantage.

The report also determined the relationship between McFerrin and Bowen "deteriorated significantly due to promises that were made and not kept, and a lack of honesty and accountability."

Among those promises were improvements to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, where the women's team practices and plays its home games. Per the report, a plan and time frame for renovations, including a women's basketball office suite, were not implemented.

The report concluded that changes at the senior administrator level of the athletic department, including the senior women's administrator, led to diminished oversight and communication with the women's program.

The report recommended that McFerrin be given a direct reporting line to not only the athletic director, with regular meetings, but also "an experienced senior athletic administrator for Program and administrative support."

“Action plans are now in place to insure the success of our program," McFerrin said in a statement released by the university. "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."

The Pictor Group was hired by the university in May after numerous former players alleged harassment and verbal abuse by McFerrin following last season. The four-month investigation found that there was also “a strong sense among the head and assistant women’s basketball coaches that the athletic department is not committed to the women’s basketball program."

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