Several former OU women's basketball players spoke out against the program on social media over the weekend, accusing head coach Sherri Coale of making racially insensitive comments during their time on the team.
It started with Gioya Carter, who played for the Sooners from 2013-17, responding to a tweet about the OU football team's unity march, which included and had the support of coach Lincoln Riley, on Friday.
Carter said her experience on the Sooners women's basketball team was much different.
"I wish I knew what it felt like to have a head coach at OU like this, but instead my four years there was filled with comments like, 'You guys act like it happened to you,'" she said in a tweet. "'If y’all's long braids hits one of my players in the face' as if the people in braids weren’t her players."
Ijeoma Odimgbe, a Sooners player from 2015-19, responded to Carter's post with a tweet. "One thing about my sister," she tweeted, "she never speaks anything but facts."
Jacqueline Jeffcoat, a Sooners forward from 2010-12 before transferring to Texas State, also accused Coale of making racially insensitive comments.
"She hit me with several racist comments after we went to Monticello in Virginia," Jeffcoat tweeted in response to Carter. "Thomas Jefferson’s plantation. How insensitive. Told me to take down a post because I felt strongly about it. I'm with you."
Coale, who's been OU's coach since 1996, issued a statement late Sunday to apologize to the program and its alumni.
“To hear the concerns raised by my former student-athletes is disheartening, because it is clear that I have unknowingly caused harm to people I care deeply about," Coale said. "Over my career, I have taken pride in the work that I have done on the court and the commitment to the personal growth of the women I’ve been responsible for leading. While I have always had the intent of expressing care for others, it is clear that there have been moments where my intent has not been the same as my impact – for that, I sincerely apologize."
Coale continued in the statement that for several years, she's "made a concerted effort" to educate herself on how to make the program more welcoming and is "committed to working" toward continual growth.
OU athletics director Joe Castiglione also released a statement on Sunday.
“When these matters were raised by former members of the women’s basketball program, we were obviously concerned," Castiglione said. "Though we were unaware of the reported concerns of insensitivity in the women’s basketball program prior to the comments that were posted in the last few days, we are committed to listening."
Castiglione noted later in his statement that OU's players have avenues to speak with coaches and administrators to voice any concerns they might have. They can also confidentially and anonymously speak with OU's sports psychologists, according to Castiglione.
"We actively seek their input," OU's athletics director said. "My hope is that we can move forward and work together in building greater understanding as we constantly strive to be better.”