Dismissed Coach at Oakland U. Draws Scrutiny Over Treatment of Players

A group of former players and others with close ties to Oakland University’s women’s basketball program have accused a former coach of the team, Beckie Francis, of intimidating players, fixating on their weights, and improperly pushing her Christian beliefs on them. Ms. Francis was dismissed last month on the same day that her husband, Gary D. Russi, announced his retirement as the Michigan institution’s president. It remains unclear if the two departures were linked.

Francis and then-OU president Gary Russi — also Francis’ husband — have declined multiple requests for comment. Athletic director Tracy Huth accepted an interview with the Free Press but would not comment on the situation.

Farrell was among 15 former players and others close to the OU program who in interviews with the Free Press were critical of Francis. A common thread was that the players — some of whom spent four years in the program and some who left early — felt powerless because their coach was married to the school president and she could not be challenged by anyone in the athletic department.

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