Friday, September 26, 2008

Ex-Player Brings Homophobia Case Against SMU Coach

The Dallas News reports that a former Southern Methodist University basketball player, Jennifer Colli, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the university and head coach Rhonda Rompola. She alleges that Rompola questioned her and other players about their sexual orientations, and then revoked her scholarship when she complained to the athletic director about it.

Colli, who had a relationship with a teammate while she played for Rompola, alleges that Rompola expressed her disapproval of gay relationships at the very first team meeting she attended. She also states that the Rompola frequently made reference to her players' sex lives, such as mentioning that "people were not performing well because they had not 'gotten any' the night before" and that she asked Colli directly about her relationship with another player "and what their plans were for the year to come." Two months after Colli complained to the athletic director, Rompola terminated Colli's scholarship, on the grounds that she had committed "serious misconduct" by giving "unverified" information about Rompola to the AD. Colli appealed the scholarship decision but lost. She transfered to and played for a junior college, where some DI coaches expressed interest in recruiting her. However, Colli maintains, those coaches changed their minds (one even revoked a scholarship offer), presumably after talking to Rompola.

Colli also submitted affidavits from her teammates attesting to their knowledge of the fact that Rompola herself had a relationship with a female assistant coach before marrying the men's basketball coach, who now coaches elsewhere.

It will be interesting to see what facts emerge as this case goes forward. Were Rompola's comments motivated by a valid coaching concerns, such as the effect of relationships between players on the overall team dynamic? Or was Rompola pressuring her players to join her on the straight and narrow? If so, was she acting under pressure to neutralize the team's reputation for homosexuality, which Rompola's own prior prior relationship with a female assistant coach might have created? Most significantly to the legal case, was Rompola's decision to terminate Colli's scholarship actually retaliatory, or did she have a valid reason for doing so? We will stay tuned!

[Via Pat Griffin's LGBT Sports Blog]