A Message to the SMU Community
It is the goal of the University that all of our programs and campus experiences provide a supportive and growth enhancing climate for our students. Within our athletic department we have a clear standard of preparing our students for life and providing an opportunity for them to develop their athletic skills while progressing toward their chosen academic degree. Thousands of student-athletes over the years have achieved both and are now very supportive alumni.
A recent media report has identified a time two years ago, during the 2017-2018 academic year, that an environment existed within the women’s basketball program that did not meet the goal of being both competitive and supportive of our student-athletes. Through feedback from players and exit interviews, Athletic Director Rick Hart was informed of inappropriate comments by Coach Travis Mays who was beginning his second year as head coach. He immediately and clearly addressed them with Coach Mays. In addition, before the beginning of the next academic year, in the fall of 2018, he hired an experienced head coach, Rob Evans, to mentor Coach Mays and to also be available to other head coaches. Also, rather than having another staff member serve as the administrative liaison with the women’s basketball program, in the following year, 2018-2019, Director Hart himself served in that role in order to have more opportunities to interact with Coach Mays and to coordinate his efforts with those of Rob Evans. At the request of Director Hart, Dr. Maria Dixon Hall, Senior Advisor to the President for Cultural Intelligence, began working with the women’s basketball coaches in April 2019 and the team in August 2019 to improve team communications. Therefore, Director Hart recognized the need for mentoring and supervision to ensure that such responses did not reoccur. He took the supervisory actions that were both needed and appropriate.
There has to be a clear line between communications that develop a competitive, tough-minded basketball team and those that are potentially traumatic. The actions taken over the past two years have moved the women’s basketball team under Coach Mays toward an appropriately competitive but supportive environment for our student-athletes.