SMU AD standing by coach Travis Mays after disturbing allegations of abusive culture

Coach Travis Mays once told players in a practice that if they weren’t going to compete, “you might as well go and commit suicide.” (AP/Jessica Hill)

SMU athletic director Rick Hart is standing by women’s basketball coach Travis Mays after disturbing accusations against the coach surfaced this week, and addressed the allegations in a memo to those within the athletic department, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Mays, among other things, told his players after a practice during the 2017-18 season that if they weren’t going to compete, “you might as well go and commit suicide.” 

Hart said in the memo that he addressed the issue with Mays at the time, though doesn’t say how, and that Mays apologized. The 51-year-old coached the Mustangs in their loss to Houston on Wednesday night,

"Coach Mays has publicly acknowledged that he made mistakes as a first-time head coach,” Hart wrote in the memo, via the Dallas Morning News. “He has accepted ownership of his missteps, apologized and grown through his experience.”

Mays also reportedly berated players with “verbal teardowns” directed at the “leftovers,” the players he didn’t recruit to the school. He cut two full-scholarship seniors, and reportedly didn’t tell his team why, and allegedly created a divide between freshman and seniors on the team.

Mays, who is now in his fourth season, also allegedly called players “disgusting,” “trash” and even threatened to speak negatively about his players to any potential future employers they may have.

In his memo, Hart said that SMU encourages “feedback from our student-athletes and others about our programs,” and that “mental health is a top priority.”

“We take great care to hire and develop coaches and staff members who share our mission of preparing students for life,” he wrote, via the Dallas Morning News. “Nothing is more important to us than the student-athlete experience.”

Both Mays and Hart acknowledged that the suicide comment was made, too. Hart said it is “absolutely a term that shouldn’t be used in any capacity or form.” Mays even apologized to one of his players via text message following the incident after his comment made the player burst into tears, as her father had died by suicide just two years earlier.

“It’s one of those things where sometimes you can push,” Mays said about the incident in a statement to the Dallas Morning News last week. “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.”

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