Lawsuits now total 10

Former women’s basketball assistant coach Tara Gibson has filed a lawsuit against the university – the 10th lawsuit alleging racial discrimination within the women’s basketball program during the tenure of former coach Jerry Ann Winters.

Friday’s edition of the St. Petersburg Times reported Gibson filed suit late Wednesday. According to the report, Gibson, who was hired in August 1999 and lost her job in May 2000, said she was terminated because she complained about a “racially hostile environment” in the program.

“This isn’t about personalities. It is about a system of governance of this university that has gone sadly awry,” Jonathan Alpert, attorney for Gibson and the other nine litigants, told the Times.

Gibson is the first non-player to sue her former employer. Nine players filed suit against the university, all alleging similar instances of racial discrimination by Winters and an inadequate response by university administration. Many of the lawsuits alleged Winters segregated the team on the basis of race when assigning roommates and treated black players more harshly than white players.

Bulls senior point guard Dione Smith filed the first lawsuit in fall 2000. The other eight players that sued were no longer members of the team when they filed suit.

Former assistant athletic director Hiram Green conducted an investigation into some of the players’ complaints and, based on Green’s findings of a “recurring theme of racism” in April 1999, Winters was sent to sensitivity training. Winters was fired in December 2000 for allegedly dismissing Smith in retaliation for Smith’s complaining to the university about the ongoing racial discrimination problems within the team.

Former athletics director Paul Griffin, who fired Winters, was forced to step down in March 2001 for reportedly attempting to cover up the problems before the investigation was complete.

n Staff Report