University of Detroit Mercy women’s basketball team accuses coach of abuse

The team’s season was cancelled amid complaints, officials say

The University of Detroit Mercy has pulled the plug on the rest of the women’s basketball season amid complaints that the coach is abusing her players.

DETROIT – The University of Detroit Mercy has pulled the plug on the rest of the women’s basketball season amid complaints that the coach is abusing her players.

The university announced Thursday night that the women’s basketball season is over, after some serious claims against the program.

“Emotional abuse, physical abuse in terms of going way over the allotted hours the NCAA provides. The list is expansive,” said one parent. The parents not being identified due to fear of retaliation against their daughters.

The allegations were made by parents of the 14 players on the team, saying the problem is with first-year coach Ann Marie Gilbert.

“We’re talking every single girl on the team that believes they were victims of abuse,” said the parent. “Verbal without a doubt, emotional without a doubt and definitely the physical abuse. To me, these girls, their bodies are beat down.”

The University of Detroit Mercy released a statement: “The health and well-being of our student-athletes is our athletic department’s top priority. We have talked with all players and members of our women’s basketball program about their concerns. We take them very seriously and will continue to review them closely. As we have prioritized the needs of our student-athletes during this challenging academic year, we have decided to suspend the 2020-21 women’s basketball season.”

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The parents drafted up a letter last week, saying “We the parents of the University of Detroit Mercy Women’s Basketball write to you with grave concern regarding the welfare of our daughters.”

In the letter, the parents claim: “After having daily, detailed conversations with our daughters over the last several months; many of which were passionate and tearful cries for help, it has become painfully obvious that our young women are suffering emotional, mental and physical abuse under the leadership of their Head Coach AnnMarie Gilbert.

“Many of us have encouraged our daughters to seek the help of administration, however the girls are terrified of the retaliation from Coach Gilbert, who has created a hostile environment of fear and isolation.

“Feeling great frustration and helplessness, we came together in a Zoom Meeting in which each family shared our individual daughter’s experience. As a collective group, we were blown away by the horrific stories of utter disregard for the care and wellbeing of our student-athletes.

“In addition, those of us who are former collegiate athletes and/or coaches, are clearly aware that there are possible NCAA violations being committed. In particular NCAA 19.1. This letter will provide information on incidents reported to us by our daughters over the last several months; many of which have been documented.”

The letter also stated:

“Additionally, it has come to the point now where the players collectively feel anxiety when playing in practice or in games; so much so that they express that they do not even want to play for fear of making a mistake. It should be noted that players try to avoid directly interacting with Coach Gilbert for any reason out of genuine fear and anxiety.

“Several players report they are losing their love for the game. The environment has become so toxic and draining that players have made comments in the locker room about having suicidal thoughts as well as purposely injuring themselves so they would not have to face Coach Gilbert’s belittling and emotional abuse. Some players report that they have never had a battle with mental health until this season.”

“We cc’d the president. We also ’d the NCAA because this woman should not be around our daughters,” said the parent.

The letter listed complaints from players:

  • Coach Gilbert has made several comments in practices and in the heat of close games that the players are replaceable, and that they can and will be replaced.
  • Several players have witnessed Coach Gilbert interact unprofessionally with assistant coaches; insulting them and threatening to fire them.
  • Coach Gilbert gossips and makes unkind comments about players during practice while on the sidelines (sometimes with her daughter who is a high school senior and not a member of the team), as well as in one-on-one meetings with different players.
  • Coach Gilbert has made distasteful comments to the team such as: “I’m disgusted with ya’ll”, “Ya’ll don’t deserve to win”, “You’re cowards!”, “Coward’s limp, losers limp” (to injured players).
  • The players have heard Coach Gilbert give up on them in the middle of games. Example: During the second quarter of a game, she made a disheartening comment about how she was “done” and that she should just keep her mask on and stay seated for the remainder of the game.
  • Assistant Coach Tim Webb and Graduate Assistant Coach Tori Moreland have been the only people in which the players feel they can confide .

About the Author:

Larry Spruill Jr. joined the Local 4 News team in January 2018. Prior, he worked at WJAX in Jacksonville, Florida. Larry grew up as a military kid because his father is a retired Chief of the United States Air Force.