Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fired University of Hawaii Basketball Coach Files Retaliation Suit

Via Helen at WHB I learned that Jim Bolla, the former women's basketball coach at the University of Hawaii, recently filed a lawsuit challenging his termination as unlawful retaliation under Title IX. UH fired Bolla for cause last week after investigating reports that he kicked a player and was verbally abusive towards them. Bolla maintains he was fired because he complained to the athletic director about a million dollar disparity in funding for men's and women's basketball. At the time of his complaint, his personnel file contained no negative documentation, but a month later, he was presented with notice of complaints against him, some of which were more than three years old. Under Bolla's five year tenure, his team produced a losing record of 64-80 and went 8-23 this year.

Bolla's case bears some similarities to other successful retaliation cases including Jaye Flood's against Florida Gulf Coast University (initially investigated for tugging a player's shirt, only evidence of negative performance appeared in her file after she complained about gender inequities) and Vickie Dugan, who in 1997 won a million dollar jury verdict against Oregon State after successfully arguing that her losing record was a result of the funding disparities about which she had complained. And though most of the high profile verdicts and settlements in Title IX retaliation cases were awarded to female plaintiffs, there is also precedent for success by male coaches of women's teams. It will be interesting to see if Bolla's case turns out similarly.