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Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coach!

Postby mustangxc » Tue Feb 04, 2020 6:20 pm

https://www.dallasnews.com/sports/smu-m ... am-at-smu/

‘Mentally traumatic’: Former players lament debilitating culture of Travis Mays’ women’s basketball program at SMU
Eight people at a practice during the 2017-2018 season confirmed to The News that Mays suggested players kill themselves if they didn’t want to compete.

By Sam Blum

4:28 PM on Feb 4, 2020

At the end of a practice during the 2017-18 season, SMU women’s basketball coach Travis Mays gathered his team at center court.

Unhappy with how the practice went, Mays made a comment that sent a shock throughout the tired team. A comment that still resonates with those present.

If you’re not going to compete, he said, you may as well kill yourself.

Eight people at the practice described the episode to The Dallas Morning News. In addition, they described a debilitating and divisive culture fostered by Mays, including needlessly cutting players from the roster, threatening to speak negatively to future employers and taking issue with a player not running due to injury. All of this occurred during the 2017-18 season.

Those who spoke to The News about the incident have different recollections of the exact wording from Mays. But all agree he suggested taking their lives was the best recourse for players who didn't want to compete.

SMU athletic director Rick Hart acknowledged Mays made the comment, saying “it’s absolutely a term that shouldn’t be used in any capacity or any form.”

At the time, senior Klara Bradshaw burst into tears. It had been just two years since her father had died by suicide, a fact well known to the team and the coaching staff.

Still, Mays asked her why she was crying, according to players in attendance. A team trainer took her away into a separate room so she could let her emotions out with more privacy.

“I remember being like, ‘What?’ Like why would he just say that?” said Alicia Froling, who noted that she and everyone else had heard Bradshaw speak openly about her father’s suicide. “He just wasn’t — he didn’t care.”

Mays later apologized to Bradshaw via text message. The News has seen a copy of the message.

“Excuse the poor judgement of words,” he wrote. “Sorry to upset you. That wasn’t my intention.”

Bradshaw detailed her experience with this incident and her senior year in a blog post published in late January.

Mays declined to comment for this story through a spokesperson, but the fourth-year coach did make a statement after SMU’s most recent home game, where he did apologize.

“It’s one of those things where sometimes you can push,” Mays said as part of the statement. “And it’s our job to push people outside of their comfort zones. And sometimes you can say things, whether it’s using the wrong verbiage or at the wrong time when you don’t need to express some of that.”

Since a third-round WNIT appearance during his first season in 2016-17 (19-15) at SMU, the program has gone 30-50 under Mays, with a 12-28 AAC record. SMU was 10-20 in 2017-18.

Froling — one of three players in program history with 1,500 or more points and SMU's all-time leader in rebounds and blocks — spoke to The News about the culture that Mays created.

So did former players Bradshaw, Stephanie Collins, Mikayla Reese, Dai’ja Thomas and two other former players who wished to remain anonymous. In addition to that, two other former staffers also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another former player, McKenzie Adams, voiced support on Twitter for Bradshaw’s blog post. In her tweet, Adams noted that her senior season at SMU was “one of the most mentally traumatic experiences ever.”

Puzzling dismissals
After a largely successful first season for Mays with these players, things started to go downhill in 2017-18 when Mays’ first recruiting class enrolled at SMU.

Weeks before the season started, Mays unexpectedly kicked two scholarship seniors off the roster — Devri Owens and Aurmani DeGar. According to Collins, Thomas, Froling, and Bradshaw, an explanation was never given to the players themselves nor to anyone else on the roster.

“Devri was the one who actually, she was the one who took the freshmen in under her wing,” Thomas said of her teammate. “She would have them over for dinner … make sure if they needed a ride to the store or needed anything, she was one of the main ones who was actually helping them.”

“[The coaches] felt like she was being a bad influence on them, for some reason. From my perspective, and all of our perspectives, she wasn’t."

New women's basketball head coach Travis Mays poses for a photograph with his team after he was introduced at SMU in Moody Coliseum in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016.
New women's basketball head coach Travis Mays poses for a photograph with his team after he was introduced at SMU in Moody Coliseum in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016.(Andy Jacobsohn / Staff Photographer)
Bradshaw, and one other former player who requested anonymity, said Mays didn’t have a need for Owens after her sister Jaden — then a five-star recruit, now a player at UCLA — decommitted from SMU. Jaden re-opened her recruitment in April 2017. Devri was dismissed from SMU’s team before the 2017-18 season.

“I’m not going to comment on any specific roster issue or decision,” Hart said, while also declining to say whether he was aware of the decision ahead of time, “other than to say there’s a process that we follow, which includes people outside of athletics.”


Owens declined to comment publicly.

As the season went on, Mays continued to create a divide between the six-person senior class and the four-member freshman class, according to all of the players interviewed. At one point, Bradshaw said, he told the seniors to pretend the opposing defender was then-freshman Johnasia Cash because he thought they didn’t like her.

During one midseason meeting, Mays allegedly went around the room and asked everyone to speak their opinion of the senior class. One staffer, director of player development Rae Brown, said members of the senior class were disrespectful, manipulative, conniving and fake, according to Froling, Bradshaw, Reese, Collins and Thomas.

Brown declined to comment through an SMU spokesperson.

“Us seniors were just the brunt of it,” Collins said. “We just got it handed to us. The way he set up the question for everyone … he was not giving them an opportunity to say anything positive about us.”

Team meetings would routinely go for three-plus hours — so long that practice would be canceled, according to Reese and Collins.

“They weren’t even about basketball,” Reese said. “We wouldn’t be watching any film. We wouldn’t be talking about games. It was almost always about our group of seniors.”

Conflict over injury
Thomas played through the entire 2017-18 season with a knee injury. It was well known to the team because she said she had to receive shots and fluid drains every two weeks to keep her on the court.


During one practice in the middle of the season, Thomas said, she told the coaching staff and the trainers that it would be too painful on that knee for her to run and participate.

“That ticked him off,” Thomas said. “[Mays] pulled me to the side and was like, I’m trying to posture up to him in front of his team. Basically saying I was disrespecting him in his gym, in his home.”

After the season, SMU’s medical staff medically disqualified Thomas because of her knee, she said. She had surgery after getting an MRI and discovering a significant percentage of the cartilage in her knee was gone, she said.

SMU later paid for her surgery and rehabilitation, she said. Mays did not honor Thomas’ request for a framed jersey, as is protocol on Senior Day, Thomas said. Instead, Mays eventually agreed to give a jersey that Thomas and her family could frame themselves, according to Thomas.

Higher-ups were told
Multiple players said they made numerous complaints individually to Hart, the athletic director. Bradshaw said she met directly with Hart after the 2017-18 season and shared notes she had taken throughout the season, including times, she says, when Mays called members of the team “disgusting” and “trash.”

Travis Mays speaks while being introduced as head coach of the women's basketball team at SMU in Moody Coliseum in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016.
Travis Mays speaks while being introduced as head coach of the women's basketball team at SMU in Moody Coliseum in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016.(Andy Jacobsohn / Staff Photographer)
Reese, Collins and Thomas also say Mays called them “trash.”

Collins said she had a similar meeting with Hart, as did Froling. At least one other player, who requested anonymity, said she and her family also met with Hart.

“Anytime we get feedback, we follow up on it, we discuss it, we share it,” said Hart, who acknowledged having meetings with multiple players. “We try to figure out what’s going on, what we need to do differently — whether it’s communication or process or structural. … So the key is really getting the feedback, inviting it.”

Other players, like Reese and one other, said they made their feelings known to Monique Holland, an administrative liaison with the women’s basketball program who reported to Hart. There were also end-of-season surveys where players said they honestly expressed their opinions of the program.

Holland — now an administrator at Auburn — did not respond to a request for comment. She sent Bradshaw a Facebook message several days ago after reading Bradshaw’s blog. The News read a copy of the message.

“We are entrusted with your lives,” Holland said to Bradshaw in the message. “We failed. I am sincerely sorry.”

All of the players said they never received any follow-up from Hart.

“I showed him everything, and I told him everything that he said,” Bradshaw said of her end-of-season meeting with Hart in 2018. “[Hart] basically said, those things slip out in coaching and tends to happen in under-pressure situations.”

Bitter dealings
Froling said she felt the same treatment from Mays during her redshirt senior year, in 2018-19. That was when Mays accused Froling and Mackenzie Ellis of having a feud that was disrupting the team. Froling said no feud existed. Ellis, who had transferred in from Colorado, transferred to Colorado State after playing one season at SMU.

The relationship between Froling and Mays continued to sour, Froling said. After the season, Froling said,Mays threatened to not allow her jersey to hang from the rafters.

“People look at the records,” Froling said. “They’re going to be like, ‘Who’s this Alicia Froling girl that owns the majority of them?’”

SMU forward Alicia Froling (10) looks for room against Connecticut forward Napheesa Collier (24) and Connecticut forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Dallas. Connecticut won 88-48, their 91st straight win.
SMU forward Alicia Froling (10) looks for room against Connecticut forward Napheesa Collier (24) and Connecticut forward Katie Lou Samuelson (33) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Dallas. Connecticut won 88-48, their 91st straight win.(Brandon Wade / AP)
Hart said he expects Froling’s jersey to be honored after the mandatory five-year waiting period.

Mays insinuated that he would speak negatively to potential future employers that reached out to him for a reference, according to Collins, Froling and Bradshaw. Bradshaw recalled him saying he was going to “not hold back” in his comments.

"People will say, 'Oh, it’s college sports. It’s not the easiest thing to go through,’” Reese said. “Like it’s hard in general. But we all have friends that play college basketball ... and nobody was going through the same experience that we had to go through.”

White, Ellis, Holland and DeGar — one of the players kicked off the roster — were given the opportunity to comment for this story but either declined or didn’t respond.

The SMU athletics department did not make current juniors Cash or Ariana Whitfield available to interview for this story. Both were freshmen on the 2017-18 team.

Those who did speak, though, made it clear that they’re willing to keep speaking.

“We actually had a few recruits that asked us personally that were being heavily scouted by Mays, ‘What do you think? Should we go there?’ We told them the honest truth,” Bradshaw said. “Run as far as you can.”
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby Terry Webster » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:50 pm

That is really damning.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby Charleston Pony » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:53 pm

Not sure how Mays is going to survive now that this is out...not only at SMU but as a collegiate head coach! Hart has to be sweating bullets right about now.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby mavsrage311 » Tue Feb 04, 2020 9:23 pm

He was probably on his way out based on the team's play, but now it's a certainty IMO.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby skyscraper » Tue Feb 04, 2020 9:48 pm

Not sure who comes out of that looking worse -- Mays, or Rick Hart for ignoring what was happening and appearing not to care at all about the student athletes.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby Terry Webster » Tue Feb 04, 2020 10:00 pm

They both smell pretty bad.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby SMU Pom Mom » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:33 am

He needs to go. Now. I am livid. This hits home because we had some similar issues with a coach and she was fired at the end of the year, but it was too late. She already ruined my daughter's college sports experience. I predict he will be out by Friday.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby Shetland » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:37 am

Hart should fire Mays tomorrow. The. Hart should be fired the next day. He is a second generation AD. How could he be this tone deaf?
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby HorsePower » Wed Feb 05, 2020 3:29 am

Would Wednesday's game (at Houston) have any bearing on the timing of a termination decision? Surely not ...
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby bubba pony » Wed Feb 05, 2020 6:43 am

these women were abused. they bravely reported it and were ignored. some are still afraid to comment knowing nothing will change. this angers and saddens me. Hart is accountable for doing nothing.
what happens now?
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby DanFreibergerForHeisman » Wed Feb 05, 2020 7:54 am

This is really disgusting! No place for this in college athletics - or anywhere for that matter.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby SMU_Alum11 » Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:38 am

Not sure if I ever would trust snowflake sam.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby No Quarter » Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:55 am

2017 - 2018 season?

How does this compare to the actions of Leach at TT?

Does a big bucks donor pay for coach Mays or the Mustang Club, what?

Hard to believe the athletic department staff will not be subject to some fall out.

Liking, trusting Blum is one thing. To ignore eight or more students is something else.
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby CA Mustang » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:02 am

SMU_Alum11 wrote:Not sure if I ever would trust snowflake sam.

Sure, the players made it up and Sam believes every word. What color is the sky in your world?
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Re: Looks like our fans are clamoring to fire the wrong coac

Postby mtrout » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:48 am

Sounds like a miserable situation for all involved.
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