The Florida Division of Administrative Hearings issued a report Monday recommending that Jerry Ann Winters be reinstated as USF’s womens’ basketball head coach and should be compensated for lost wages.
The recommendation by Judge William Quattlebaum states the university did not have satisfactory grounds to fire Winters.
In his conclusion, Quattlebaum wrote: “Based on the evidence presented at the hearing as discussed in the foregoing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, it is recommended that the University of South Florida issue a Final Order reinstating Jerry Ann Winters’ employment contract and providing payment for all unpaid salary to which she is entitled under the contract from the date of her termination through the date of reinstatement.”
Winters was fired in December after eight players on the women’s basketball team filed lawsuits against her and the university for alleged racial discrimination.
When Winters challenged the decision, the university forwarded the petition to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
In April of 1999, USF women’s basketball player Dionne Smith filed a complaint with the USF Office of Equal Opportunity Affairs against Winters alleging racial discrimination of players.
When Smith was suspended from the team after the charges were filed, Winters was accused of retaliating against Smith, which is a violation of the school’s policy.
But Quattlebaum’s ruling states there was no evidence that Winters’ actions against Smith were a result of the complaint.
“The evidence presented at the hearing fails to establish that Smith’s dismissal was an act of retaliation by Winters,” Quattlebaum said.
In response to Quattlebaum’s conclusion, President Judy Genhaft issued a statement supporting the decision to fire Winters and said the judges recommendation is a “technical disagreement with USF’s policies.”
“We believe that was and remains a valid reason to dismiss her(Winters) from coaching and university service,” Genshaft said in the statement. “No quibbling over policy can change the facts.”Winters was not the only casualty of the discrimination allegations at the university.
Former Athletics Director Paul Griffin resigned in March after former assistant athletics director Hiram Green said Griffin covered up problems of discrimination within the women’s basketball program.
According to Jonathan Alpert, attorney for the eight players who filed suit against Winters and the university, the ruling indicates that there is still a problem of racism at the university.
“No one is interested in the fate of the eight African-American students who have had their college careers damaged,” Alpert said. “Everyone’s interested in the fate of the athletic director and a coach.”
And while Quattlebaum concluded that Winters did not violate university policy, he said his order should not minimize any complaints of racial discrimination at the university.
“There may have been, and perhaps still are, problems of some type within the University of South Florida women’s basketball program,” Quattlebaum wrote. “However, determination of whether problems, if they exist, result from the insensitivity of team coaches or university officials, or from the unmet expectations of student athletes, is not relevant to this proceeding.”