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Officials settle lawsuit against former women’s basketball coach at Texas Tech after a USA TODAY investigation

Marlene Stollings was fired after an investigation into a culture of abuse.



Marlene Stollings, the former head coach of the Texas Tech women’s basketball team who was fired in the wake of a USA TODAY Sports investigation of the program in August 2020, has settled a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit she filed against the university and its athletics director, Kirby Hocutt.

A day after a report by USA TODAY Athletics and The Intercollegiate, a college sports investigative media outlet, was released, Texas Tech dismissed Stollings. The players claimed there was a poisonous culture under Stollings that caused them to feel “fear, worry, and depression.”

In her case, Stollings claimed that the school had already exonerated her after conducting two internal evaluations prior to publishing the investigation’s findings.

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Stollings filed suit against Texas Tech in October 2020, and a trial was set for February 2023. On Wednesday, the parties submitted a joint request to settle, and by Thursday, the matter had been dismissed.

It took some time before we learned what the terms of the settlement were. According to Robert Giovannetti, Texas Tech’s Senior Associate Athletics Director of External Operations & Strategic Communications, the university is unable to discuss the settlement.

When she was let go, Stollings still had two years left on her contract. According to records of the agreement obtained by USA TODAY Sports and the Intercollegiate, she was owed $720,000 in basic annual salary from the institution for the 2019-20 season and $740,000 for 2020-21. In the event of a no-cause termination, Stollings would be entitled to 75% of her remaining basic yearly income, which would amount to more than $2 million.

Stollings had allegations for breach of contract, fraud, and fraud in the inducement thrown out by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in August 2021.

Although the court found no merit to the claims, it did rule that Texas Tech is immune from liability because it is a public institution.

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Stollings’ attorney Peter Ginsberg said his client’s desire to get back into coaching was a major factor in the decision to settle rather than take the case to trial.

Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday that “given the nature of university athletics, most if not all universities were cautious to engage Marlene while her litigation was underway against Texas Tech.” “When the dust settles from the case, we should expect to see a dramatic shift in conditions.

“Equality triumphs today!” on Wednesday, Stollings posted on her Twitter account. “Settled! I’m a victim of discrimination and I’ve decided to sue to clear my name, correct the record, and help advance equality and fairness. Thrilled! Justifies the effort put in. We appreciate the support of the SAs (student-athletes), TTU parents, and TTU supporters. Eager to get back to my life’s job!”, justice triumphs. Settled! I’m a victim of discrimination and I’ve brought this action to help set the record straight and promote equality and fairness. Thrilled! Deserved the effort! A lot of thanks go out to SAs, moms and dads, and TTU supporters. I can’t wait to get back to doing what I love. As tweeted by Marlene Stollings (@Stollings) on August 10, 2022

Former Texas Tech assistant coach and Stollings ally Nikita Lowry Dawkins tweeted the following the day after she was let go by the school: “Well done, Marlene! Keep up the good fight of faith, since God is just and no weapon created or used against you will ever succeed.”

Dawn Staley, head coach of the South Carolina women’s basketball team and the reigning NCAA champion, responded to Stollings’ tweet by writing, ” “Many congrats, Marlene! Respect for your courage, resolve, and success in the face of adversity.

Best wishes, Marlene! Congratulations on your victorious fight and battle! It’s morning somewhere! — dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) Tenth of August, 2022

Stollings’s claims of discrimination under Title VII and retaliation under Title IX might be included in an amended lawsuit, the court ruled.

Stollings claims that Texas Tech and Hocutt “established an environment in which male and heterosexual coaches were treated better than female and gay and lesbian coaches, and men’s athletic programs were given preferential treatment over female athletic programs.”

The environment at Texas Tech, encouraged by Mr. Hocutt in particular, “regarded women and homosexuals and lesbians as inferior” and “penalized female and gay and lesbian coaches who refused to conform.”

Hocutt said that watching women’s basketball was “difficult” for him and that the only reason he went to Lady Raiders games was because he had to.

Hocutt has made it clear more than once that he finds women and women’s athletic programs troublesome because they “have drama,” while men and men’s athletic teams do not.

These views revealed a widespread bias towards women at Texas Tech and, more specifically, among Hocutt’s peers. Additionally, “Texas Tech administration, and Hocutt in particular, would act dismissively or patronizingly towards Coach Stollings.”

Expenses for the men’s basketball team in 2019 were over $3.7 million, while those for the women’s team were around $1.2 million, according to yearly records filed by the institution in compliance with the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act.

Stollings claimed retaliation occurred after she reported sexual harassment charges against strength and conditioning instructor Ralph Petrella on March 25, 2020. According to the lawsuit, a Title IX inquiry was launched after Stollings made the mandatory notification to the athletic department.

It was alleged in the lawsuit that the athletics department and Hocutt faced potential embarrassment as a result of her reporting the incident and the subsequent inquiry.

According to a statement Hocutt supplied to USA TODAY Sports in 2020, Petrella resigned that month after the season concluded and before a university evaluation could take place.

According to the complaint, Hocutt fired Stollings in August 2020 as a means of protecting himself from the fallout of the USA TODAY Sports investigation.

Steve Berkowitz and Jori Epstein contributed.

The following article was published in USA TODAY: A lawsuit between Texas Tech and the former women’s basketball coach was settled following an investigation by USA TODAY.