Terps' Weller: I won't resign Coach denies charges of mistreating players, to meet with AD today

April 04, 1997|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

Maryland women's basketball coach Chris Weller, whose program is being reviewed by university officials following complaints from players, denied she has mistreated players and said she will not resign.

Weller, who has been Maryland's coach for 22 years, said last night that while she is "tough," she has "never set out to harm a student-athlete."

"I am out to help them realize their greatness," she said. "I think I've had excellent student-athletes and they have done extraordinary things. I want them to expect that in themselves. I believe in them and I believe that they're good."

Last month, six Maryland players presented athletic department officials with a memo listing their complaints about Weller and her coaching staff. The charges included mental abuse. Officials in the athletic department began interviewing players and Weller two weeks ago, after the Terps lost to Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Sources close to the program said

many of the players told school officials that they did not want Weller to lose her job, but to modify her behavior.

Athletic director Debbie Yow said last night that she did not know when the review of Weller's program would be complete. Weller is scheduled to meet with Yow and university attorney Susan Bailey this afternoon, according to one athletic department source.

In 22 seasons, Weller has a record of 432-208, winning eight ACC tournament championships and reaching 11 NCAA tournaments and three Final Fours. But her tenure has been marked by player transfers and withdrawals, as well as a minor NCAA recruiting violation in 1986.

None of the present or former Maryland players contacted for tTC this story would speak on the record. But in interviews with 10 former players, parents of players, former assistant coaches and athletic department employees, the following charges were made off the record:

That Weller withheld meal money from two players as punishment during a summer school session.

That Weller once ordered two players off the team bus on the way to a pre-game meal.

That Weller once practiced the team so hard that players urinated on themselves because they couldn't take a break.

That Weller curses excessively, has ordered players to change their hairstyles and would not allow players to choose their roommates or what dorm they would live in.

Weller strenuously denied all the charges last night.

"I've always tried to do the thing that was in the best interest of the kids. Sometimes, people don't agree [with the results], but never for not trying," Weller said.

A number of players on this year's team have indicated privately that they might transfer if Weller is retained. All three assistant coaches -- Trudi Lacey, Belinda "Boe" Pearman and Sue Panek -- have left the program.

But the Maryland program has survived previous periods of turmoil -- and even thrived.

Malissa Boles, a top player on Weller's teams in the early '90s that climbed to No. 1 in the nation, said she couldn't imagine anyone else running the Maryland program.

"I was shocked when I read that," Boles said of the players' complaints about Weller. "I'm the type of person who believes in loyalty and in having a team that has a camaraderie that keeps things in house. Coach Weller and I had a good relationship. I went out night in and night out and played hard for her and she appreciated that."

The most serious charge made on the record about Weller came last month, when Greg Richie, the father of sophomore guard Kelley Gibson, said Weller had withheld meal money from Gibson during the winter semester break.

Weller vehemently denied that last night, saying she had elected to give her players their per diem payments in "small doses," rather than in one lump sum.

"If you give it to them in one lump sum, it's very tempting for them to go use the money to buy new clothes or jewelry," Weller said. "None of my kids have ever not been able to get their per diem. If anybody tells you that I haven't given them their per diem, they're not telling the truth."

As to the allegation regarding the summer school meal situation with two other players, Weller said she was not required to offer summer weekend meal money to players. She said she told those taking summer classes who had a grade point average below 2.5 that they would have to take part in study hall to get weekend money. Any students who did not receive the weekend money, Weller said, had not been "taking care of business."

Weller's program has been found guilty of an NCAA violation once. Weller was banned from recruiting off campus after the 1985-86 season, when she allowed guard Deanna Tate to travel with the team while Tate was enrolled at University College, and was still a recruitable athlete.

Weller's tenure also has been marked by the transfers of many high-profile players. Since 1980, at least 22 of Weller's players have either transferred or quit school.

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