Chilling allegations have surfaced out of Corvallis.
Per Eddie Pells of The Associated Press, the Oregon State volleyball program, led by head coach Mark Barnard, has seen 11 players quit or transfer since 2016 and two players have contemplated suicide, with one attempting to overdose.
The report claims Barnard, who has been at helm of the program for five years, has threatened to revoke scholarships from struggling student-athletes, consistently pushed players past health warnings in practice as punishment and pitted players against one another in team meetings.
Former player Amya Small, who redshirted in 2019 and battled injuries during the season, and two other Oregon State players who asked to remain anonymous fearing for the safety of other athletes on the team, portrayed a toxic environment under Barnard.
Small, who had her scholarship pulled in April and has since accepted a scholarship from Florida A&M, said the abuse led her to taking a dozen pills eight months ago. Luckily, she changed her mind on the decision to overdose and called 911.
My teammates showed up for me that night. I love my teammates. It's just Mark that makes it terrible -- Small told AP
Another player said she shared with her teammates plans to hang herself, according to AP.
One player who has since left the team, but negotiated to keep her OSU scholarship, said Barnard told her to consider transferring after one year.
There are ways to handle situations, but the way he went about it was so wrong. He’d call us entitled brats, a bunch of princesses, tell us how much we suck, and how we’re unworthy of being here. He’d push players beyond the limits of what they physically and mentally could do.
Some of those who spoke to AP also witnessed Barnard forcing a player to repeat a particularly difficult drill that invoved her jumping and swinging at balls lobbed above the net and swinging and then digging balls hit to the ground. The coaching staff also reportedly ignored a system that alerted them when a player's number of vertical jumps were reaching dangerous heights.
“We witnessed Mark tear her apart,” a parent who was at the practice and asked not to be identified told AP. “He made the whole team sit and watch a drill. He isolated her, made her do it over and over again. I was mortified.”
Citing Barnard’s bio on the team website, AP reported approximately nine players missed significant time due to injuries or illness during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Oregon State went 20-43 and finished last in the Pac-12 twice after making the NCAA tournament in 2017.
AP said the repeated complaints have triggered what university spokesman Steve Clark called a “full and impartial,” investigation. Clark also disputed the idea that players were pushed past their physical limits as punishment or that a harsh environment resulted in Beaver volleyball players contemplating suicide, AP reported.
Clark also added that “appropriate action,” was being taken by athletic director Scott Barnes and that an investigation conducted by Oregon State’s Equal Opportunity and Access office was concluded. The university has not yet released a statement.
Barnard is in his 16th year at Oregon State, after previously serving as an assistant under U.S. national coach Terry Liskevych, who retired in the summer of 2016. Prior to his arrival in Corvallis, he served on the Australian Olympic team at the Sydney Games in 2000, coached at the high-school level in Australia, and played on the 1984 Australian junior men’s team.
You can read more specifics about Oregon State’s disturbing investigation via The Associated Press here.