Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Former Athletic Director Settles with Georgia State

In December, Georgia State University dismissed its athletic director, Mary McElroy. McElroy, one of the few African-American female athletics directors at a non-historically black college or university, had served in the position since 2005 and was under contract until October 2011. McElroy did not pursue litigation, but she did appealed the decision to state Board of Regents. Also in dispute was whether McElroy's contract required GSU to pay her $500,000, as McElroy argued, to terminate her contract. On Monday, however, McElroy announced that she would withdraw her appeal to the Regents and accept GSU's payment of $200,000. She cited the desire to "move on" with her life as the reason for dropping her challenge to GSU's decision.

Carl Patton, the (former) GSU president who made the decision to dismiss McElroy, did not go public with his reasons, so it is hard to evaluate the strength of any case McElroy could have made against the university. One paper pointed out that McElroy had made enemies with the track coach, John Rowland, when she considered eliminating the track and field team in order to keep gender equity in balance as the university added football. Personnel records suggest that Patton was frustrated with McElroy about this situation. He was also upset that McElroy "prejud[iced]" the decision of the Board of Regents on the football proposal by holding a press conference about it on the same day as the Board's vote.

I find ironic the possibility that McElroy's zealous advocacy for the football program is what got her into trouble. A black, female athletic director in McElroy's shoes might accurately conclude that she needs to zealously advocate on behalf of football in order to secure standing in a male dominated field, which is made vulnerable by racial and and gendered stereotypes about her inability to lead. To emphasize the point, consider what would have happened to McElroy if she had been more modest in her efforts to promote football or if she had argued against adding football because it would divert resources and opportuntities from men's track. She likely would have been fired even faster.