Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hurricane Brewing in Florida…And It Ain’t About the Weather

We might be calling Florida Gulf Coast University “Fresno East” soon. Over the last several months, Fresno State has lost two lawsuits to women coaches claiming sex discrimination and harassment. Juries in these cases awarded volleyball coach Lindy Vivas $4.8 million and Basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein $19.1 million (this is not a typo). Fresno also settled with former senior women’s athletic administrator Diane Milutinovich for $3.5 million in a similar discrimination case. In Vivas’ case, the lawsuit also included charges of discrimination based on her perceived sexual orientation. All three women had complained about sex discrimination in the athletic program.

It kind of makes me glad I am not a tax payer in California or an alum of Fresno. What a mess. What a disgrace.

FGCU was targeted with a Title IX complaint late last spring in which the only two women head coaches (out of 14 sports), a woman assistant coach and a former women’s athletic director claimed sex discrimination in the athletic program. What followed sure looks like an appalling case of massive retaliation against these women and the university’s female former general counsel. The athletic director and university officials claim otherwise, of course.

First, university general counsel, Wendy Morris, was dismissed after she claimed she was being intimidated by the interim university president over a disagreement about the Title IX complaint. An internal investigation found no Title IX violations.

Next, Holly Vaughn, women’s golf coach and Jaye Flood, women’s volleyball coach received poor job performance evaluations from the athletic department.

In early October, Vaughn resigned mid-season, saying cryptically, that she stayed as long as she could for the players, but she had done as much as she could at FGCU. A day later, Jaye Flood (the winningest coach in school history) was suspended for unspecified “student welfare issues.” Flood was very outspoken about her complaints of gender inequality in the FGCU athletic program. It was later revealed that the suspension was probably prompted because Flood allegedly grabbed a player’s shirt during practice. Flood claims she was never interviewed about the shirt grabbing claim. In November Flood was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year, but the university did not acknowledge it and the athletic director refused to comment on this omission.

Later in October, assistant softball coach, Gina Ramacci, was dismissed after being accused of having an “inappropriate relationship” with a student-athlete and “promoting” drug use on the team. Ramacci, who is gay, denied both charges and was later cleared on the promoting drug use charge. The university investigation concluded that the nature of the relationship with the student-athlete could not be defined, but that it was inappropriate (Huh?). Ramacci has filed a lawsuit claiming both Title IX and Title VII violations in her dismissal.

Can it be merely coincidence that, in the space of about two weeks, the only two women head coaches at FGCU and an assistant coach who all supported a Title IX complaint against the university are now gone amid unsubstantiated charges of unethical conduct and poor performance? I guess, but it stretches the imagination.

Situations like the ones at Fresno State and FGCU remind us all that sport, despite all the progress women have made as athletes and coaches, is still Guy World on many campuses and women who challenge sex discrimination in athletics must prepare for serious and vicious retaliation from male administrators who act with all the maturity (and sense of entitlement) of little boys trying to pull up the rope ladder to their private little tree fort to keep the girls out.

I sense a humongous legal and media headache coming on for FGCU. They better stock up on Excedrin and put Fresno State administrators on speed dial.


Anonymous said...

Pat, you forgot that the female provost was then retaliation against in November 2007 for being a whistleblower about the entire mess, as she was removed from her position as provost.

Anonymous said...


As an alumni of Fresno State (as well as knowing Stacy Johnson-Klein first hand), a resident of Fort Myers, Florida, and former college athlete... things are not always as they seem.

Johnson-Klein did not deserve to win that lawsuit. She played the female and sex card so much in Fresno, that she dishonored herself and her team. She was an awful person and destroyed good players for her own gain. She didn't care about the team-- she cared about gathering enough information to fund her habits and lead a comfortable life.

Fresno State will appeal that asinine ruling until they are blue in the face. I'd rather them lose all those millions that she was rewarded in tying that in the court system than give her one dime.

As for Jaye Flood-- what a joke she is. She saw what Johnson-Klein received and that's her basis now.