Friday, January 15, 2010

Former Texas A&M Diving Coach Files Retaliation Case

Kevin Wright, who was fired in September from his position as head coach of Texas A&M's diving team, has sued the university in state court, alleging he was terminated in retaliation for reporting concerns about gender discrimination in athletics. According to this article, which discusses the complaint, the precipitating incident occurred in the context of a 2008 investigation of the athletic department by the Office of Civil Rights. Wright had heard from one of his divers that the swim team coach, Steven Bultman, had asked a swimmer to lie to investigators in order to conceal the swim team's practice of assigning more female athletes to hotel rooms (4) than male athletes (2). Wright alleges that his email raising this to the attention of the athletic department -- along with subsequent emails addressing other gender equity concerns -- was met with "immediate hostility" which ultimately led to his termination the several months later.

Wright has filed suit under a Texas whistleblower protection statute that protects state employees. The article does not say whether the case includes a federal, Title IX retaliation claim as well, but on these facts it certainly could have. In the last few years, a number of coaches have won damage awards and settlements in similar retaliation cases.