By Lauren Barthold – News Director
On Wednesday, June 12th Oakland University changed.
Former President Dr. Gary D. Russi announced his retirement in a press release that afternoon. In the following hours Athletic Director Tracy Huth announced that Women’s Basketball Coach Beckie Francis, Russi’s wife, was “relieved of her position effective immediately.”
For some time, it was unknown exactly what caused Francis’ dismissal, and whether or not it was related to her husband’s retirement. On Friday, July 12th WXOU spoke with former player Jenna Bachrouche over the phone, and got a glimpse into just what that cause was.
Bachrouche discussed how Francis picked on her about her weight, created competitions of who could lose the most weight, had her get her blood tested, held meetings every week on her progress, as well as scrutinized what and how much she ate.
“Weight has never been an issue for me. [Francis] became fixated on it. It is still something that I struggle with now, as far as being paranoid about my weight,” said Bachrouche.
Bachrouche is of Muslim faith, and knew that Francis was Christian. Her mother asked whether or not religion would be an issue for Francis, and she said no. However, Francis showed the team film clips of her testimonies in church, had another player read the Christmas story straight out of the Bible at a mandatory holiday party, showed Christian movies on the busses to games, and even introduced them to people as a Christian team.
“You don’t really speak your mind with Coach Beckie. We stopped at a restaurant in Las Vegas, sat down, and she introduced us as a Christian basketball team. At that point, I was extremely angry. I didn’t even know what to say. I was fuming. My teammates were in awe, and had to calm me down because I was so upset. They ended up asking her about it, and she just said it’s a part of what it is. It’s a part of this team,” said Bachrouche.
Once Bachrouche finally had enough, she and her parents sat down with Huth. She mentioned that numerous people have gone to him before regarding Francis, and his answer was always “deal with it or you leave”. In the end he apologized and helped her transfer to Western Michigan University, where she remains happily today.
“I had to sell myself to people just because I had nothing to show for, which was unfortunate, but it was what it was,” said Bachrouche.
Listen for more exclusive audio from Jenna Bachrouche as WXOU continues to follow the story.