UDM parent: Letter that shut down women's season sent without my knowledge, consent

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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Detroit — At least one of the parents of a Detroit Mercy women's basketball player didn't authorize the use of her name on the letter or even see the letter before it was sent to university administration complaining about head coach AnnMarie Gilbert.

Gunny Corcoran, mother of sophomore guard Annika Corcoran, told The News this week that she "was never asked for my opinion and I was never asked to sign anything."

Yet, Corcoran's name was listed first at the end of a five-page letter sent in mid-January to athletic director Robert Vowels, university president Dr. Antoine Garibaldi and three NCAA officials, alleging multiple instances of emotional and physical abuse by the program's first-year head coach, Gilbert.

AnnMarie Gilbert

Detroit Mercy suspended the season amid the allegations, and after players refused to play another game under Gilbert.

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The letter listed at least one parent of all 14 players as having signed it. Before it was sent, parents held Zoom meetings to discuss the complaints.

"I only became aware of the Zoom meetings the day before the letter was sent, so I was a bit upset when it landed in Mr. Vowels' inbox without any knowledge of the content," Corcoran said. 

"That being said, I do not say this to invalidate anyone's complaints. Everyone is entitled to their own story and experience with their daughters, and I respect that."

The News reached out to all 25 parents whose names and emails were attached to the letter. Of 11 who responded, Corcoran was the only one who said the letter was sent without knowledge or consent.

Corcoran's daughter, Annika, who started 27 games as a freshman and played five games this season, has transferred to Akron.

Guard Aly Reiff, the only senior on the team, also recently entered the transfer portal. Reiff's father, Stan, signed and supported the letter.

"All these young ladies deserve better than they’ve been treated," said Stan Reiff, "even if a parent or two doesn't have the fortitude to see this through.

"I am a parent of the only senior on the team and will support my daughter in whatever decision she makes," Reiff continued. "Whether to end her basketball career, play another year at Detroit Mercy, or play another year at different program.

"With that being said she will not play at UDM if Coach Gilbert is allowed to return."

Gilbert has not spoken publicly since the season was shut down Jan. 21, with the Titans 1-13 on the season, and 1-9 in the Horizon League. She took over for Bernard Scott, who was let go after last season, his fifth.

She arrived at Detroit Mercy with 18 years of head-coaching experience, most recently at Division II Virginia Union, which she took to the national-championship game. She was head coach at Eastern Michigan from 2007-12, winning 20-plus games three times, but also landed the program on probation amid excessive practice-time allegations — among the allegations by Detroit Mercy parents, as well.

Vowels has declined to address specific claims, issuing a statement saying, "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."

Among other allegations made by the parents, and supported by all 14 players on the roster, according to multiple members of the team: That Gilbert urged players to play through injuries, concussions and even COVID-19 symptoms.

"Cowards limp, losers limp," Gilbert said to players, according to the letter.

Detroit Mercy athletes are tested at least three times a week for the coronavirus.

Gilbert remains the Titans' head coach, as listed on the program's website. Her contract terms aren't public because Detroit Mercy is a private institution.

Detroit Mercy players offered to finish the season under a different coach — likely assistant Tim Webb, father of junior guard Kaela Webb (he didn't sign the letter, but mother Shakela's name was on it; she didn't respond to request for comment). They were told by Vowels that wasn't a viable option and the season was suspended.

"This entire thing is unfortunate and is certainly not a way to see a very challenging season end on so many levels," Gunny Corcoran said. "With all going on in this world, we look to sports as an escape from the madness, not to contribute to it.

"The only thing I can say on behalf of my daughter is she just wants to play the game."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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