While a pamphlet of sex alternatives from an Australian Christian school was amusing, this story of a coach taking an interest in her players’ lives well beyond that of a normal coach is far from it.
Beckie Francis was fired from her position of women’s basketball coach at University of Oakland on June 12th. Didn’t hear about it? Well at the time it wasn’t a big story.
The school joined Division I in 1997 but hasn’t been what one might call an athletic powerhouse, so the news didn’t make “the news.”
Until last night.
Everyone who has played sports has a story about a coach who was a jerk. Worked them too hard, expected too much, wasn’t happy with anything.
Most of the time it turns out the coach was just trying to get the best out of the players and being ‘hard’ was the way they decided to go about it. Their actions rarely inflict lasting bad feelings, and in the end usually end up being to the players’ benefit.
The women who played for Beckie Francis are telling their own “horrible coach” story and it’s not one that has that element of wistful remembrance of a time and person that meant so much to them, a happy moment in their lives.
No, those players are telling the tale of a coach who would often question their religious practices, inviting them to her church. A coach whose constant monitoring of their weight led quite of few to the dark world of eating disorders. A coach who even inquired about their sex lives, insisting that they tell all who asked that they were virgins; Christian virgins.
Beckie Francis has made news headlines before. Last fall she became a spokesperson of sort against sexual abuse, admitting to her own experiences of being sexually abused by her father. Now she is making headlines for a different kind of abuse, mental and emotional.
When talking to the Detroit Free Press, former University of Oakland player, Stacey Farrell said that “mental abuse is definitely the two words that describe my three years there.” According to other former players, many of who have requested to remain nameless in the press, Francis would join in practice with the players, only to touch their stomachs asking to “feel your sixpack”.
Francis even went so far to ask one of her assistant coaches to take photographs of her players in their sports bras and spandex, “flexing their muscles” at different times so she had a record of their weight and appearance.
So why didn’t these players go tell someone all this was happening? Besides the usual sports mentality of “coach knows best”, Beckie Francis is married to the University president, Gary Russi. The same day that Francis was fired, it was announced that Russi would retire, effective August 1st.
Many players that left the Oakland program have gone on to find success at other schools, but there are plenty more who have lost a love of the game and are left with a distrust of those who should be looked to for guidance.