BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The final play of the season marked a mass exodus of players from the women's soccer team at Buffalo State College.
11 players have now quit and signed a formal complaint against the team's longtime coach, Nicholas DeMarsh, who has been the coach for 18 years. It claims Marsh behaved unprofessionally.
7 Eyewitness News spoke with some of the players who quit, who asked not to reveal their identities.
"It was really eating away at my mental health," said one of the players. "He tells us before big games that we have no chance of winning or performing well...he told us all at halftime of a game that we were losing that he would get rid of every last one of us before he ever loses his job."
"I witnessed Nick DeMarsh doing terrible things to players. I witnessed players coming out of meetings in tears. Even though I love this sport, I can't play for him," said another player, who says she was the leading scorer on the team.
"I was told I was part of a 'poison' in the team when I really had no idea what he was talking about," said a third player, who says DeMarsh diagnosed her with a mental illness and suggested she should not play. "We want action. Future generations and the girls on the team right now deserve better than what they get/what they receive it."
There are some who are sticking by Coach DeMarsh.
"He's not this vindictive, demoralizing person," said freshman Alexis Cummings, who says she's been coached by DeMarsh since she was 12.
"Those accusations were exaggerated to the extreme I would say. They were exaggerated to the point where it's not even near the truth," said Erin Valente, a junior on the squad.
"We just had a very underlying toxic situation on our team," said A.J. Haase, a sophomore.
"The frustration was within the team and directed at Nick for I think the wrong reasons," said Emma Boccolucci, team captain.
The team finished with a record of 6-11-1, but players who quit say this has nothing to do with the team's performance on the field.
"We just want to ensure it never happens to another female athlete again," said one of the athletes.
The players who quit would like to see the DeMarsh removed from his position.
"If he were to go, I think the institution would lose a great person and a really great coach," said Boccolucci.
The college is currently investigating these claims.
Dr. Timothy Gordon, the college's vice president for student affairs, released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News.
“Student-athlete welfare and academic success are the top priorities of our athletic department. The complaints shared by members of the women’s soccer program are most certainly disturbing and describe an environment that is not aligned with our institution’s values. We have heard these student-athletes and are taking their concerns seriously. We initiated a thorough investigation earlier this month and our review of the situation is ongoing. Because this is also a personnel matter, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
Late Monday afternoon, another statement was sent to 7 Eyewitness News.
"I am announcing today (Monday, November 25) that the college will be commissioning an independent review of the women’s soccer program, its leadership, and the complaints outlined by some current and former members of the women’s soccer team. The complaints shared are indeed troubling and describe an environment that is not aligned with our institution’s values. We continue to take these concerns seriously. The welfare of our students and student-athletes is my top priority...Men’s soccer head coach Francesco Cardillo will oversee day-to-day operations of the women’s program while the independent review is conducted. Nicholas DeMarsh remains an employee of the college and the athletic department."