Razorback Athletics is looking into allegations, made in a letter addressed to the Razorback athletic director, that volleyball coach Robert Pulliza emotionally and verbally abuses his players.
Kevin Trainor, associate athletic director for public relations, emailed an official Razorback Athletic statement confirming that they received the letter demanding Pulliza’s resignation, and the department has “initiated an inquiry into the allegations.” Because the review is ongoing, the department will not comment further until the process is complete, Trainor said to The Arkansas Traveler.
The letter outlines 17 bulleted complaints, some of which pinpointing specific instances when the coach was an, “outright intimidating bully.”
The letter’s source(s), signed “extremely concerned Razorback parents,” has not been identified, but graduates and two senior volleyball players have validated the letter’s contents.
Seniors Monica Bollinger and Chanell Clark-Bibbs both said that they did not know who sent the letter but agreed with each of its points.
Pulliza’s actions go beyond the regular tactics of other coaches, Bollinger said.
“He would call me a weak b---- or he would call me a pouty b---- or anything along those lines and that was pretty much on a regular basis,” Bollinger said. “I mean, he even told one of my teammates he wanted to punch her out of the gym, but he never actually touched anyone.
“Whenever you get this kind of talk every single day (from) someone you’re supposed to believe in ... you end up feeling like you’ve been emotionally abused and verbally abused and I think that’s why a lot of my teammates and I feel hostile toward him.”
Two former volleyball players who played under coach Pulliza also confirmed that the complaints listed in the letter were in line with their experiences on the team.
Summer Morgan said she transferred to the University of Memphis in the fall of 2015 after three years on the UA volleyball team because of Pulliza’s behavior.
“It got to the point where I was isolated from the team and treated like an outcast,” Morgan said. “I just really couldn’t take it anymore. It took the passion for volleyball away from me for a while, and I’ve never experienced anything like that from a coach before.”
Haley Koop, a former player and 2015 graduate, said that she has read the letter and agrees with the complaints written.
However, the letter states that before some players were recruited, “their club ball coaches warned them not to sign with this coach.” Koop said she had no such warning.
“As an assistant coach, I know players raved about him,” Koop said. “When he recruits he is a good salesman, but he basically has two different personalities – one for recruiting and one when you actually get on the team – and they are very different. He treated everyone with little respect.”
The Traveler reached out to several current players. Most declined to or have yet to respond to a request for comment.
Morgan said the grievances in the letter were true, including the regular use of offensive language and tactics to isolate players. The letter specifically states that any player who tries to “come to the aid of a teammate targeted” by Pulliza is then made “the brunt of ongoing degrading comments designed to embarrass or shame her.”
“He would call us p------ and whatever he can get out of his mouth,” Morgan said. “Sometimes I don’t think he thinks before he says things. You have to agree with him – even though you don’t really agree with him – because if you don’t say yes and nod your head to what he is saying about other players, he will yell and go crazy and sometimes you’ll be the one to get kicked out of practice.”
The players talked among themselves about taking actions against the coach but were scared of losing their scholarships and positions on the team, Bollinger said. However, she said she and other seniors reported the same misconduct listed in the letter during their exit meetings with the volleyball administration this week.
“I have told my story,” she said. “I know my fellow seniors – they did the exact same thing. They didn’t lie – they just told their stories. They just wanted to make sure that they were being heard and to hopefully make a change and make sure something happens from this.”
Interim Chancellor Daniel Ferritor said that he received a copy of the letter and has talked with Jeff Long about the matter and is sending all inquiries to Trainor.
Pulliza finished his eighth season at the UofA on Nov. 28. He was an associate head coach at the University of Kentucky from 2004-07 before joining the Razorbacks.
The Traveler attempted to contact coach Pulliza. He was not reached for comment.
Nik Koch and Meleah Perez contributed to this report.