Friday, May 30, 2008

University of Tennessee-Martin Sued by Former Volleyball Coach

I read in USA Today that Amy Draper, formerly the head volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee-Martin, has filed a lawsuit challenging her termination as discriminatory and raising other violations of Title IX.

Draper's complaint, filed in federal district court, alleges that the University and athletic department officials violated Title IX and other law (including the U.S. Constitution's due process clause) when it terminated her contract without a hearing and in alleged retaliation for her challenges to gender discrimination within the department. She says she received inferior treatment relative to male coaches in the department and that her volleyball program received support that was inferior to the other teams. When she pointed out disparities in an email to the athletic director, she was told that if she continued to make allegations of gender discrimination, he would "bring the curtain down" on her. She was eventually fired before the end of her contract and without a hearing -- ostensibly for her team's "poor performance," in contrast to many male coaches whose employment continued despite never having a winning season.

Draper also alleges that the athletic department maintains a double standard with respect to coaching qualifications. The department has hired men to coach women's softball, volleyball (her replacement), and as an assistant women's basketball coach, notwithstanding their lack of experience playing in the sport that they coach. Yet it insists that female head coaches have college experience in the sport they are coaching. This double standard is common in college athletics, so it will be interesting to see how this particular allegation plays out in the litigation.