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(Trevor Christensen | The Spectrum & Daily News) Dixie State Women's Basketball Coach Catherria Turner gives players instruction during a practice at the Burns Arena on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
Dixie State: Women’s basketball program mired in controversy

Dixie State » Former players accuse first year coach Catherria Turner of discrimination as possible repercussions from separate NCAA probe loom.

By Lya Wodraska

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jun 24 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 24 2014 10:33 am

One player says she was berated and bullied because she is African-American, another claims she was interrogated by her coach about her sexuality and another says she was disciplined and eventually dismissed from the team for petty things, such as wearing the wrong shoes.

The accusations run the gamut, from seemingly outlandish and implausible to serious, but they provide a sampling of the controversy surrounding Dixie State women’s basketball team.

At a glance

Dixie State overview

Catherria Turner was hired in April 2013 after the previous coach, Angela Kristensen, was fired for repeated NCAA violations.

Since Turner’s hiring, nine players either have been dismissed or left the team with some complaining of racial and sexual discrimination.

After an investigation found Turner may have committed NCAA violations, she likely will be suspended from coaching for the first two games of the 2014-15 season and her program will have fewer practice hours available.

About Catherria Turner

Hired in April 2013 as the Red Storm’s new coach

Spent the two previous seasons at Holy Names, compiling a 25-32 record

Also had assistant coaching stints at Portland, Maine and Simpson College

She began her college playing career at Oregon in 2001-02 then transferred to Oklahoma State

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at OSU in 2005

Tucson, Ariz., native

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The little NCAA Division II school in St. George is in the news these days as several players either have quit or have been dismissed from the team following the team’s first season under coach Catherria Turner.

Turner, hired to right the program after former coach Angela Kristensen was fired for repeated NCAA violations, has instead found herself at the heart of a fire storm of personnel moves and NCAA violations.

Turner started her tenure with 21 players but of those, only six are expected to return next year. Eight players either have quit the team or were dismissed following a season in which the Red Storm posted a 14-14 record.

Three players — Austen Harris, Nanea Woods and Miranda Moore — believe they were pushed out of the program based on the color of their skin, even though Turner herself is African-American.

"She would humiliate and punish the black people differently," Woods said.

Harris said she also was discriminated against for being a lesbian, saying she was asked about her sexual orientation in front of the team and banned from socializing with certain players. A team rule that there was to be no dating amongst team members was implemented because of her presence, Harris said.

"She created a hostile environment," Harris said. "She humiliated me on multiple occasions."

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‘Did what was best for the team’

Turner denied the accusations. She did dismiss those players, along with Brianna White, but others left for less controversial reasons.

Turner said Jessica Anderson left to go on an LDS Church mission. Megan Hatt quit due to a knee injury and Tia Matthews and Vika Havili were players brought in under the previous coaching system who didn’t fit in well with her team. One other player, Caroline Lantor, is transferring to Salt Lake Community College because she wanted more playing time, Turner said.

Turner said she had no choice in letting go players who did not follow her rules.

"When I took this job I only had four players and it would have been a whole lot easier on me if I could have returned the whole team, but I had to do what was best for the team," said Turner, who was hired in April 2013. "Even if I get reamed for it in the newspapers about it, I had to do what is best for the girls who are here and working hard."

Dixie State officials maintain Turner has done nothing wrong with how she has managed her team and they stand behind the coach. Jason Boothe, the school’s athletic director, said the coach didn’t always handle things ideally, but attributed some of her mistakes to youth and the learning curve of being a college coach.

"We have proven that if a coach gets in trouble, we will act accordingly and quickly," he said, alluding to the firing of Kristensen during the 2012-13 season. "We have found some little things here and there, but at this point, we don’t feel there is anything to be concerned about."

NCAA issues

Yet the school did find enough to propose penalizing the 30-year-old Turner for the upcoming season based on NCAA infractions she and those around her committed. Accounts of the NCAA’s concerns were obtained from Dixie State by The Salt Lake Tribune via an open records request.

The main issues involved the coach’s father, Stevie Turner, who contacted potential recruits on behalf of the program, which is against NCAA rules.

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