Thursday, August 14, 2008

Settlement Scuttled in WVU Tech Case

An odd development in the lawsuit by the WVU Tech softball players' Title IX case we blogged about in February: the players' lawyer has asked the judge to let him off the case because the players are refusing to sign an agreement that the lawyer believes reflects a settlement both sides had agreed to.

The players, Alexis Cox and Teri Harrison, initially filed a complaint with OCR about inequitable athletic facilities at WVU Tech, which they dropped after the university agreed to make certain upgrades and improvements to the softball field. The players later sued when those upgrades did not materialize. In June, both sides agreed to a mediation. According to Michael Ranson, the players' lawyer, during this process WVU Tech "agreed to even more improvements and upgrades to the women's softball and facilities than previously memorialized" in exchange for Harrison and Cox dropping the suit. But when the agreement was memorialized in writing, the players "surprisingly refused" to sign the document, according to WVU Tech's counsel.

No explanation for the players' decision has been offered, but Ranson is seeking a hearing so that the judge can determine whether an agreement between the parties in fact occurred over the course of the mediation. He has asked that Harrison and Cox attend the hearing and voice their objections to the settlement, so perhaps we will find out their side then.

This is pure speculation, but I wonder if Harrison and Cox had second thoughts about the settlement because they had been on the receiving end of WVU Tech's promises before -- maybe on further reflection they were not satisfied with the (alleged) settlement because it contains no automatic penalty for failing to satisfy the timeline for the improvements. Another possibility is that the players realized that agreeing to drop the entire lawsuit in exchange for facility improvements would prohibit them from continuing to press their claim that WVU Tech retaliated against the team and its former coach after they filed their complaint with OCR.