Student athletes criticize apparent dismissal of strength coach

Jonathan Harvey, Online Sports Editor

Tulane student athletes took to Twitter Tuesday after word spread of Tulane Athletics’ decision to dismiss strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Sharpe. 

Tulane announced Wednesday that Sharpe no longer works for the university. The apparent dismissal has drawn criticism on social media. Many past and current Tulane athletes voiced their concerns about the apparent firing, using #BringStephBack as a Twitter hashtag campaign.  

“Following an investigation, Stephanie Sharpe is no longer employed by Tulane University, effective April 15,” Executive Director of Public Relations Michael Strecker said. “It is Tulane University’s policy not to comment on confidential personnel matters.”

Sharpe had worked with Athletics since 2007, primarily coaching football, swimming and diving, and bowling. Sharpe has been under investigation for several weeks for the way she disciplined student athletes who showed up late to a practice, multiple students said.

Sharpe had the student athletes perform rolls and bear crawls in the Hertz Center, a standard disciplinary exercise, many current and former student athletes said. 

“It’s common practice in any sport to have a player do rolls and bear crawls if they’re late to practice,” former Tulane football running back Dante Butler said. “I’ve seen it done multiple times.” 

Butler, who called Sharpe a mentor, said the coach has helped guide him as he attempts to play in the NFL next season. 

“[Sharpe] cared about your attitude on and off the field,” Butler said. “She was someone you could go to for anything. She was tough and would try to push you [to achieve].”

Sharpe’s rumored dismissal caused a number of students to sign a petition that lobbies for her return. The petition, started by members of the swimming and diving team, currently has more than 200 signatures.

“The petition was made in an effort to show [Sharpe] and Tulane Athletics that we support her and don’t think she should have been fired,” senior swimmer Laura Turpen said. 

Roger Dunaway, assistant athletic director for Athletics Communications, said no student athletes would be disciplined for voicing their anger on social media.

“It’s a sad day to be a Tulane athlete,” Butler said. “She was the one I leaned upon when I was a freshman. We grew together, and it’s sad to see her go.” 

Freshman Christie Griffin has worked as a Student Athletic Trainer this year and said she was shocked when she heard of Sharpe’s departure 

“Even though I was new to the office, every morning she would ask about me or my day with a smile,” Griffin said. “She was one of those people who went out of her way to ask how I was.” 

Griffin said the departure will affect everyone’s mood. 

“Coming to work and having someone so happy at 6 a.m. was really nice,” Griffin said. “She was such a big part of this huge family. For such an integral part of that family to leave is insane.”

Sharpe declined to comment.