Basketball and the Bible: Ex-player on fired OU coach

Basketball and the Bible: Ex-player speaks out about fired OU coach

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Jenna Bachrouche Jenna Bachrouche
ROCHESTER, Mich. (WJBK) -

There is a mystery at Oakland University. Why did the president of the school retire on the same day a coach was fired? A brave basketball player may provide some answers.

She said the coach picked on her and humiliated her, not because she didn't know the playbook, but because she didn't know the Good Book.

"You got to pray to play," said Jenna Bachrouche. "I remember one of my teammates telling me that."

Bachrouche is an all-American girl, who just happens to be a Muslim.

"She said, 'Hi, we're Oakland University woman's basketball team. We're a Christian basketball team,'" Bachrouche said.

The she was Bachrouche's coach, Beckie Francis.

Oakland University is not a Christian school. It is a state school, a public university.

Bachrouche just wanted to play college hoops, but found herself jumping through uncomfortable hoops to please the Christian coach.

"The beginning, I felt insecure about myself and my religion," Bachrouche said.

She explained church was highly suggested on road trips. Bible readings were mandatory, and if Bachrouche wanted to complain, there was one big problem.

"She's married to the president. What am I going to do, a freshman, a sophomore basketball player," Bachrouche said.

After two seasons, Bachrouche left Oakland University and transferred to Western Michigan University, and it is only now that she feels safe to speak up, safe because of what happened a few weeks ago.

"Very short notice we got informed that the president of the university, Gary Russi, resigned. He retired, and then literally about an hour later, his wife, Beckie Francis, coach of the women's basketball team, she was relieved of her duties," said
Scott Wolchek, editor of The Oakland Post, the school newspaper.

So the coach was canned, the president resigned and the school is being tightlipped. While they are saying Coach Francis was fired for malfeasance, whatever that means, Bachrouche is just relieved that her ex-teammates don't have to make a choice between the Bible or the basketball.

"I'm hoping this will kind of bring to light exactly the kind of things that she did whether that was the reason she got fired or not," Bachrouche said.

Oakland University released a statement that said, "At the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season, a woman's basketball student athlete requested a transfer release from Oakland University. ... At the time, she raised issues of non-secular conduct and behavior on the part of the women's basketball head coach. The Athletics Department ... immediately commended an internal review that resulted in appropriate corrective action being taken."

Bachrouche does not believe that student was her, and indeed, several other team members have left in the last year.

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