Detroit Mercy shuts down women’s basketball season
Detroit – University of Detroit Mercy officials canceled the remainder of the women’s basketball season after the players’ parents cried badly over the program’s head coach during the first year.
The parents of the Detroit Mercy Women’s Basketball Roster have signed a letter to the university administration claiming that new head coach AnnMarie Gilbert ran a program that inflicted “emotional, mental and physical abuse” on players. The Sunday letter The News received Thursday said the parents had decided to take action because their daughters were concerned about retaliation, alleging that Gilbert had set up a program based on “fear” .
All 14 Detroit Mercy players supported the parents’ letter and the numerous allegations of abuse, according to two players, who both spoke on condition that they remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. At this week’s meetings, a majority of the players called for the season to be coached without Gilbert, but university officials advised that the two players did not consider it a “viable option”.
And so Detroit Mercy announced on Thursday afternoon that it would suspend the women’s program for the rest of the season. The private school did not give a specific reason, but it did not give the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason.
“The health and well-being of our athletes is a top priority for our sports department,” said sports director Robert Vowels in a statement released by the school. “We have spoken to all of the players in our women’s basketball program about their concerns. We take them very seriously and will continue to investigate them closely.
“Because we have prioritized the needs of our student athletes in this challenging academic year, we have decided to suspend the 2020-21 women’s basketball season.”
Gilbert is in her first season as Detroit Mercy with Division II Virginia Union, which she took for the 2017 national championship game. She trained in Eastern Michigan in the five years leading up to that stint and won 69 games in Ypsilanti in the past three years.
During her time in Eastern Michigan, she was cited for four serious violations of the NCAA, including too much practice time. This is also one of the allegations made by Detroit Mercy’s parents.
Another claim: Gilbert put pressure on players despite reported medical ailments, including COVID-19 symptoms. The parents’ letter detailed the injuries of several players including COVID-19 symptoms, concussions, plantar fasciitis, bone contusions, fractures and migraines. “None of the athletes who reported these injuries and symptoms were treated with care or concern,” the parents’ letter said. “In fact, they were forced to compete and found guilty.”
“Cowards hobble, losers hobble,” Gilbert told the players, according to the letter.
In the letter, parents allege Gilbert prevented players from going to medical staff and interacting with university administration.
Gilbert did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The News, and the university said it would not comment. Vowels said he would have no comment beyond his official statement.
Before they wrote the letter to Vokale, the parents met in a Zoom meeting.
“We were overwhelmed by the horrific stories of total disregard for the care and well-being of our sports students,” the parents wrote in the letter.
Other Parental Claims: Gilbert prioritized basketball over academics, even mocking players who got high marks for “not making basketball a priority”; that she made comments during practice and games that players are “interchangeable”; that she communicated unprofessionally with assistant coaches, “insulted her and threatened to fire her”; that she gossips about players during training and in one-on-one conversations with various players; and that she gave up the team “in the middle of the games”.
“This letter is just a snapshot of the horrible environment our daughters endure every day,” wrote the parents. “We come to you with our urgent request and ask that you investigate immediately before anything tragic happens. We demand that an investigation be opened immediately and that Coach AnnMarie Gilbert be taken on administrative leave pending the result of the internal investigation. It is us.” I am not currently seeking legal remedies, but I reserve the right to pursue any legal remedies we have. “
Gilbert was hired in April and took over for Bernard Scott, whose contract was not renewed after five seasons in which he played between 42 and 109, with nine wins in his last three seasons. Gilbert, who won 20 seasons in each of the eight years prior to joining Detroit Mercy, inherited 10 players and recruited four newcomers. Gilbert previously served as the head coach of her alma mater, Division III Oberlin in Ohio, and was an assistant in Michigan for eight seasons. Her overall record as head coach is between 288 and 231.
This year’s titans are 1:13, 1: 9 in the Horizon League and are defeated by rivals Oakland last weekend. Gilbert’s contract, length, and terms were not made public by Detroit Mercy.
The five-page long and one-sided letter was also sent to the University President Dr. Antoine Garibaldi and three NCAA officials sent. Among the parents who signed the letter was Shakela Webb, mother of Junior Guard Kaela Webb. Webb’s father Tim is an assistant coach on Gilbert’s staff and did not sign the letter. The letter said Webb is one of two employees Detroit Mercy players confide in.
The players met individually with vowels on Tuesday, and the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the season on Wednesday, the two players said ahead of Thursday’s announcement.
This is the second similar incident in the Horizon League to come to light this month. Previously, Purdue Fort Wayne women’s coach Niecee Nelson was charged with mental and physical abuse. Nelson has publicly denied the allegations of 14 players, six parents, an assistant coach and a sports coach.
Twitter: @ tonypaul1984