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Arkansas volleyball Coach Robert Pulliza has released a statement through a Little Rock public relations firm refuting allegations of bullying and intimidating his players.

The allegations were made in an anonymous letter by people claiming to be outraged parents and sent to UA athletic department officials on Nov. 30, two days after Arkansas lost to Texas A&M to end the season at 17-13.

Pulliza's statement was emailed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Tuesday by Robert Coon, a partner at the Impact Management Group.

"These last few weeks have been some of the most difficult that I have experienced in my life, both personally and professionally as a coach," Pulliza said in the statement. "Any accusation that I have threatened physical harm to any player or called players names like the demeaning terms that have been alleged is simply false.

"Many of the allegations made against me speak more to a style of coaching that might not be for everyone, but is not uncommon in college athletics.

"These accusations have come from a small number of players. Unfortunately, coaching often involves making difficult decisions that do not always please each individual player, but which are necessary for the betterment of the team as a whole."

An Arkansas spokesman said Pulliza's statement was not coordinated with the UA.

The athletic department confirmed last Wednesday it had started an investigation of the volleyball program after receiving the anonymous letter and would have no further comment until the process is completed.

Pulliza, who has coached the Razorbacks for eight seasons, thus far has declined interview requests about the allegations.

Monica Bollinger, a senior on the volleyball team this season, told the Arkansas Traveler -- the UA's student newspaper -- last week that she didn't know who sent the letter about Pulliza, but agreed with its content.

Bollinger said she and other seniors on the team reported Pulliza's treatment of the players to Arkansas administrators during their exit interviews last week.

-- Bob Holt

FOOTBALL

Junior-college OL commits to Hogs

Junior college offensive lineman Deion Malone made a private oral commitment to Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema during his official visit over the weekend and went public with his pledge Tuesday afternoon.

"I really like all the facilities," Malone said. "The coaches are good, they treated me good all weekend. They've got a lot of players coming back. I got time to talk to them ... to know them. So I won't be coming in knowing nobody. I feel good."

Malone, 6-5, 295 pounds, of Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Miss., will sign with the Razorbacks today, the first day mid-year transfers can sign a national letter of intent with a four year school.

He picked the Hogs over 17 other scholarship offers from schools like East Carolina, Memphis, San Diego State, Tulane and late interest from Mississippi State.

Arkansas losing offensive line coach Sam Pittman to Georgia didn't concern Malone after talking to Bielema Saturday morning.

"He called me into the office that morning and told me everything," Malone said. "Most coaches would try to hide it. That would have stood out to me."

He was a full qualifier out of South Panola High School in Batesville, Miss. He'll have three years to play two.

Malone, who also took an official visit to East Carolina, was able to watch the Hogs prepare their Liberty Bowl matchup with Kansas State.

"The practices were great," Malone said. "I like how they go through their practices. The tempo I love it. No one worrying about it. Everyone was happy. Like I said, it's a good environment."

He's looking forward to enrolling in January and working with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert.

"My main thing is I have to work on getting bigger," Malone said. "I am small, but I'm still physical. I have good feet and good hand placement."

Malone is Arkansas' 16th oral commitment for the 2016 class. Oral commitments are nonbinding.

-- Richard Davenport

GYMNASTICS

UA ranks NO. 13 in preseason poll

The Arkansas gymnastics team was ranked No. 13 in the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches preseason poll released on Tuesday.

The Razorbacks, led by junior all-arounder Amanda Wellick, freshman all-arounder Paige Zaziski and seniors Stephani Canizaro, Sydnie Dillard, Heather Elswick, Erin Freier and Keara Glover, open the season in the Cancun Classic on Jan. 2 in Cancun, Mexico.

Arkansas was ranked No. 12 in the preseason last year and finished at No. 15.

The Razorbacks will face seven of the nation's top 10 teams this season, No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 5 LSU, No. 9 Georgia, No. 10 Auburn and No. 21 Kentucky.

-- Tom Murphy

BASKETBALL

Lyon women beat Oral Roberts

The NAIA Lyon College women's basketball team team handed NCAA Division I Oral Roberts a 68-49 loss in an exhibition game Tuesday afternoon at the Mabee Center in Tulsa.

Lyon, which entered Tuesday at 6-2, was led by Taylor Gaedtke with 14 points. Jamie Jackson finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Scots used a 20-8 second quarter to take a 28-23 halftime lead. They led 52-38 at the end of the third quarter.

Kaylan Mayberry led Oral Roberts with nine points.

Sports on 12/16/2015

Junior college offensive lineman Deion Malone

Print Headline: UA volleyball coach replies to accusations

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