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It's not often I find stuff for a diary at espn.com, but this just jumped out at me. It's an Associated Press story headlined James Finley fired after 25-6 year. Finley was the coach of the Virginia Commonwealth University women's volleyball team just coming off his most successful season with them -- 25-6, and they had just lost in the semifinals of the Atlantic-10 tournament. What happened? New athletic director, and Finley is gay. Virginia is one of the states where we can be fired for no other reason than because we're gay.

I haven't trusted the Associated Press a whole lot this political season, so I went to the Richmond Times-Leader to see what they had to say about the whole thing. Their beat writer, Vic Dorr, Jr., leads off with this paragraph

  Former Virginia Commonwealth University volleyball coach James Finley believes he was fired earlier this month because he is openly gay. He said he is contemplating legal action if the school does not move quickly to reinstate him with a secure multiyear contract.
VCU, of course, says nothing of the sort happened. So, below the great orange divider.

Reading both stories, it's difficult not to conclude that Finley is correct, and that's not just me speaking as a gay man. The espn.com story (also running in the Washington Post but the espn.com story has been updated more recently) observes that Finley had been with the team for eight years and that this was their best year, but

Finley said when he met with athletic director Ed McLaughlin and executive associate athletic director Jeff Cupps, they told him their decision not to renew his contract — which expires Dec. 31 — had nothing to do with his won-loss record. The coach, who is 151-116, said he was told that they would help him find a new job; McLaughlin said Cupps would even write a letter of recommendation.
McLaughlin joined the VCU staff in August of this year.

Here's where it gets hinky. The Richmond paper reports

An internal email sent Tuesday to VCU faculty members decried Finley’s dismissal and the October demotion of Pat Stauffer — described in the email as “openly lesbian” — from her position of senior women’s administrator. Finley said he and Stauffer are the “only two openly gay” individuals on the athletic department staff. Finley, who is married to local attorney John Sternlicht, said he has brought the matter to the attention of VCU administrators.
It's not clear to me who sent it. Finley said he was "cautiously optimistic"
until Pam Lepley, VCU’s executive director of university relations, released a statement saying “VCU and its athletic director, Ed McLaughlin, are fully committed to the core value of diversity as reflected in the university’s diversity statement and strategic plan."
More details from the AP story. It seems McLaughlin went out of his way not to have anything to do with Finley when McLaughlin took the job.
Before he was summoned to McLaughlin's office to be fired, Finley said he and the AD had never had a conversation. When they passed in the hallway, Finley said he would say hello, and McLaughlin never acknowledged him. The coach said at one athletic event, McLaughlin mingled with other coaches and donors, but McLaughlin walked away whenever he tried to join a conversation.
And here's the kicker from the AP.
VCU has become a special place to Finley, he said, because of how fully it embraces diversity, and how it always made the coach, his husband, John Sternlicht, and their three sons feel "welcome, not tolerated." Sternlicht said much of the athletic department attended their wedding 2½ years ago.
The Times leader spoke to the team, and
Finley, 151-116 in eight seasons at VCU, has been told by players who attended the session that McLaughlin said the athletes “deserve better than this” and “need someone who is going to represent this university well.”
More clarification from GayRVA.com
Finley doesn’t blame VCU or the rest of the administration for this issue. He made it clear that he has faith in the system’s ability to clear up the issue. “I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Rao and the university to enforce the anti-discrimination policy in this situation,” he said. Virginia lacks sexual orientation in its list of protected classes for employment. However, VCU does include it in their anti-discrimination policy. Finley believes this policy was violated.
So Finley has filed a complaint with VCU's Office for Institutional Equity, which has 45 days to investigate and evaluate the claim, and Finley says he'll involve the court system if the finding is against his reinstatement.

I couldn't find anything that suggested McLaughlin had a track record of homophobic behavior, not even at outsports.com or at deadspin.com. But if you have two gay employees, and you fire one while demoting the other, I don't think it's a great leap to see this as homophobic AND in violation of VCU's stated policies.

THERE'S MORE From WTVR, Richmond's CBS affiliate about the circumstances

There is nothing usual at all about a college athletic director bringing in his handpicked coaches and administrators to boost his program, to put his stamp on it.

And that’s what McLaughlin basically said in his prepared statement and what it says on the VCU Rams women’s volleyball page – that they were going in a new direction.

And, in fact, McLaughlin has already reached back in his past for his executive associate athletic director, Glenn Hofmann, who worked with him at Niagara University.

But this hire could also raise some eyebrows.

In August, one month after VCU hired McLaughlin, Hofmann resigned his job as Athletic Director at Merrimack College in Massachusetts after an independent misconduct investigation. That conduct was never publicly revealed, but the resignation was pretty big news at the time.

No, I couldn't find out more about that, but whatever it was his wife had to resign her position in the Merrimack College administration too.

And about VCU

This is the university that, in 2010, basically told attorney general Ken Cuccinelli to go fly a kite when he said Virginia universities didn’t have legal standing to protect students and faculty from discrimination based on sexual orientation. If you know anything about this school, you know they are far from uptight.

Originally posted to Angry Gays on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 04:35 AM PST.

Also republished by The Wide World of Sports and LGBT Kos Community.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Totally possible. And thank goodness (4+ / 0-)

    there are venues, including courts, that the coach can go to to seek justice. But when an employer fires an employee, it is prohibited from disclosing the reasons (if any). So if the guy did something or behaved in some way that got him fired, the school must keep mum to the press. In this case, it seems like it was because the AD is a homophobe, but he never actually said anything anti-gay, and so it is all a presumption. Since the school seems generally tolerant, and since the coach does have ways of appealing this, it seems likely that justice will be done, if delayed.

  •  I'm going to make sure my friends... (5+ / 0-)

    ...who are VCU alums are aware of this grotesque injustice.

    McLaughlin is a vile excuse for a human being!!

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 04:52:48 AM PST

  •  did VCU provide a stated reason for dismissal? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, banjolele, Lujane
  •  If this can be verified here is one VCU (11+ / 0-)

    faculty member that will raise hell!

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:25:22 AM PST

    •  WOW (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      don mikulecky, UFOH1, Lujane

      You can report from the inside on this?  That will be amazingly helpful!

      -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:47:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No....I work at home and have little direct (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dave in Northridge, Lujane

        information.  I posted on face book and hope to get some from insiders.  At the moment all I have is this.

        An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:05:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  When I was AAUP President this would have blown (5+ / 0-)

        the roof off!  Where are they now?  I need a contact.  I'll do some hunting.

        An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:12:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Here is a source for AAUP at Virginia Universities (5+ / 0-)
        Gay Rights on Campus, circa 2011
        Thankfully, Virginia’s college campuses have developed internal and external responses to the sometimes repressive political, social, and cultural conditions in the commonwealth. Several public and private colleges and universities have successfully campaigned to include sexual orientation in their institutional nondiscrimination policies, even if most have not been as effective in getting gender identity and expression added. Many of these same campuses have incorporated Safe Zone Ally programs that enable the mentoring of vulnerable LGBT youth by sympathetic faculty and staff members; some have LGBT student and employee organizations; and a well-resourced handful have established LGBT resource centers, have engaged in collective action around discriminatory policies or practices, or, in the case of private institutions, are able to offer domestic-partner benefits for same- and, sometimes, opposite-sex unmarried partners. Most campuses, though, have acted in isolation, failing to bring such reforms to the notice of other, less advanced institutions. Virginia college students have held annual statewide conferences on LGBT issues—the last ones titled “Generation Equality.”

        Despite these advances, until recently, no organization brought together LGBT students, faculty and staff members, administrators, and their allies. The AAUP helped lay the groundwork for such an organization at an impromptu statewide summit of LGBT academic leaders and their allies at VCU in April 2005. External relations director Martin Snyder and then communications director Ruth Flower of the national AAUP alerted the audience to the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues initiative. This grants competition was looking for preproposals that would lead to strategies and vehicles for civilized discourse on polarizing issues on America’s college campuses. Snyder and Flower quickly attracted a core group of collaborators that included English professor Janet Winston of VCU and the coauthors of this article. Alongside Snyder, we drafted the preproposal, which discussed LGBT issues on Virginia’s college campuses. The Ford Foundation required institutional commitment to this potentially controversial venture in the form of a presidential signature, and this proved impossible to secure, in part because of the perceived “volatility” of the topic of homosexuality in the culture wars and the real vulnerability of public universities to the basest popular prejudices.

        We did not let it rest there, however. Snyder convinced the Ford Foundation to entertain the group’s draft preproposal without a university sponsor, with the expectation that a university administration would commit to the project soon. He then persuaded a group of faculty members from Hollins University whose own preproposal had been rejected to join his group’s proposal with Hollins as the lead agency. That summer, Hollins faculty members LeeRay Costa (anthropology), Jennifer Boyle (English), and Darla Schumm (religious studies) joined the core group. We met at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression in Charlottesville to flesh out the full proposal, which was sent to the Ford Foundation in October 2005. Although the proposal was not fully funded, we did receive $10,000.

        Network Virginia

        We decided to use the grant to organize a conference, “Network Virginia: Building LGBT Coalitions for Change on Campus,” scheduled for March 3, 2007, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. In its mission statement, the group expressed the following four goals, which it retains: (1) to build sustainable, professional ties between LGBT faculty and staff members and students on Virginia campuses of higher education; (2) to overcome allegiances of race, gender, class, and region that may hinder LGBT solidarity within the state; (3) to facilitate difficult dialogues among LGBT academics and their allies in Virginia about potential strategies and priorities in the ongoing fight for legal equality; and (4) to use and disseminate pedagogical tools that help form progressive coalitions in the commonwealth.

        These goals must have struck a chord with the intended audience; eighty-one people from all over the state—faculty and staff members, students, and community activists—attended the Charlottesville conference. The conference was publicized in the July–August 2006 issue of Academe, which focused on the Difficult Dialogues initiatives and included an article by Janet Winston, “Difficult Silences,” that eloquently explained the importance of the project in Virginia. The Charlottesville gathering was a success, featuring as plenary speakers Karen DePauw and Shelli Fowler, the academic dual-career hires at the center of the Virginia Tech controversy, as well as morning and afternoon breakout sessions.

        Changes in leadership and personal transitions have led to changes for Network Virginia since that meeting. Today, Network Virginia has advisory board members from nine campuses, including four faculty members and five staff representatives. The organization still functions mainly through AAUP-sponsored conference calls, but its Facebook page is slowly adding more friends. In June 2011, Network Virginia held a one-day workshop at VCU on many of the same issues that had captivated the 2007 conference attendees, and it has drafted academic freedom and governance resolutions to be ratified by faculty and staff senates for presentation to the Virginia General Assembly in January 2012. These resolutions would reaffirm the campus nondiscrimination clauses and liberties already in place that had been questioned by Attorney General Cuccinelli’s notorious March 2010 opinion.

        An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

        by don mikulecky on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:22:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This has dirty politics written all over it (7+ / 0-)

    Watch for the attorney general to intervene on behalf of the new AD.

    "And the President of the United States - would be seated right here. I would be here. And he would be here. I would turn - and there he’d be. I could pet ‘im." - Lewis Black

    by libdevil on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:27:21 AM PST

  •  Hopefully there is more solid evidence (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jayden, Lujane

    than that which is presented in this diary about why this coach was dismissed.

    Because just perusing the sports section of a newspaper or websites like ESPN, coaches are fired ALL THE TIME often or usually quite arbitrarily.  And this coach wasn't really fired, it seems like his contract simply was not renewed.

    So it seems like a rather high bar to prove this was any different.

    •  Here's what Finley's husband has to say about it (6+ / 0-)

      From GayRVA:

      John Sternlicht, Finley’s husband and a lawyer, admits it’s very hard to prove discrimination in most cases – you have to look at the entire circumstance to understand what has happened. He believes his husband’s situation, with the lack of normal treatment and the demotion of the other LGBT employee, is evidence enough. “You have to have enough evidence to get your case to a jury or your case is thrown out,” said Sternlicht, “and this would be enough to get to a jury.”

      -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 05:50:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  25-6 coaches are very rarely fired... (5+ / 0-)

      The vast majority of fired coaches are fired because of poor performance on the field. A much smaller number are fired for some kind of scandal. Unless some kind of scandal emerges, the bar is pretty low.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:03:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If he's 156-116 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sfbob, Dave in Northridge

        If the record is correct at 156-116, then I'm going to guess this was at or near his high point in wins at 25.  

        That would be even less understandable.

        One thing I know about competitive athletics is that someone always has their guy or girl they want on their team for whatever reason.

        It's also quite possible that, in addition to the homophobia, the AD has some other person already in mind who embodies his own perverted morals of discrimination and dishonest.

        Streichholzschächtelchen

        by otto on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:49:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You get a new AD in, which was the case (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew Lazarus, Lujane

        here (or am I mistaken about that) they tend to fire coaches willy nilly and randomly to bring their own people in.   The spoils of getting the job, really.

        Just saying, that happens a lot.

  •  Look at the whole (3+ / 0-)

    If one looks at the entire climate of the State of Virginia, especially political, one can see how someone such as the AD would think that his actions could be condoned.

    In an environment in which the electorate brought us the current governor and attorney general and routinely displays the flag of the Confederacy, McLaughlin probably felt safe to finally COME OUT as a bigot.

    Virginia looks to me to be a radical, racist, right-wing, and redneck haven for bigots such as the AD.

    If the coach is not reinstated, or made rich by the court, then VA needs to change its slogan to "Virginia is for Bigots" or "Virginia is for Savages".

  •  Assumptions are dangerous here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky, Kansas Born, Samer

    I would only tell all involved to be very, very, very cautious. Sometimes, for example, the high ranking folks are put in place -- let's just say that Virginia comes to mind -- with an eye toward placating outside forces, whether they are trustees or boards of governors. Thus, accusing a person of a sentiment is both dodgy and unnecessary.  

    Let's see. . . can we think of anything in Virginia recently where the universities have been affected by a narrow political interest meant to reflect the current governor?

    Time is not a fiction; it is a narrative.

    by The Geogre on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:22:42 AM PST

  •  Shameful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge, sfbob

    The interesting thing about college sports is that the coaching staffs usually seem to have a little longer to turn programs around.  

    They have to have enough time to bring in their own recruits.  So it seems like the coach would have been at just the right spot when that is taken into consideration.

    So it seems like he was right where he should have been in terms of success on the court.

    I think an AD like this guy probably looks at women's basketball, and sees it as gay ladies run amok.  In his mind, he might think he's gonna stop that from happening with Volleyball.

    Here's a good article on negative recruiting against so called "gay programs."

    http://sports.espn.go.com/...

    Streichholzschächtelchen

    by otto on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 06:45:12 AM PST

  •  How many ways can you say "Because he/she's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    (fill-in the blank with 'gay',' black','hispanic', etc.)." without using the words.  

    Answer:  Lots of ways, as long as neither the press nor the public has the perceptiveness to use the principle of Occam's Razor, which is that the most obvious and common sense explanation for an event should be accorded validity until disproven.  You are running a temp and are a bit achey this morning -- You may actually have yellow fever, (despite having lived your whole life in Nebraska), or you may just have a common cold......

  •  Not only ENDA, but "inclusive" ENDA. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    I've got a story out of New Zealand that highlights the results of leaving out gender identity.  I'm hesitant to post it because it's hard to get anything read here if it is not American.

  •  You've become a vivid example of the value of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    a communities support of diversity.  It has never one in my whole lifetime occurred to me to look at  ESPN as a source for progressive news items. I don't think I've ever been there at all.

    It's not often I find stuff for a diary at espn.com, but this just jumped out at me.
    But, where is the ESP part? Did I miss the ghosts and mind reading parts?  (joke alert.)  

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:59:19 AM PST

  •  I Don't Understand This Line In The Diary. (0+ / 0-)
    New athletic director, and Finley is gay.

    The Republican Party is Simply a Coalition of Greed and Hate

    by kerplunk on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 10:14:20 AM PST

  •  Simply stunning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    And I follow college sports.

    No other scandals (so it seems), the team has their best year ever, and he gets fired?

    FYI, you'd be surprised by the general interest stuff that you can find at ESPN.

    •  Tell HoundDog that, Kev (0+ / 0-)

      I know, but this is the first time I found something that I could use as fodder for a diary. I'm amazed that some of our fellow Kossacks can't see this as the cut-and-dried episode that this is.

      -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:33:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  interesting. my older brother got his BA from VCU, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge

    in theater, back in the late 70's. he was apparently one of the very few straight males in the dept., and no one had a problem with all the gay males. i work in downtown richmond, and see billboards for VCU all the time, many of which make a point about the university's diversity and tolerance.

    i'm thinking mr. mclaughlin may soon be finding himself on the wrong end of a termination. and by the way, VA AG Cucinelli is a tortured, flaming asshole. any opportunity to tell him to go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut, is an opportunity that should be taken. he and gov. mcdonnell were the bright minds that came up with the "transvaginal probe to get an abortion" idea, that didn't sit well with the ladies of my fair commonwealth.

    •  Maybe it's a coincidence but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dave in Northridge

      the new AD's last appointment was at Niagara University, a Catholic college in upstate NY.  He's also a graduate of Boston College. I work for an arm of the Catholic Church and this kind of homophobia is considered perfectly acceptable. Ironically, the only time it seems to be acceptable to be gay is if you're a priest with free access to little boys.

  •  I Blame the University of Minnesota;) (0+ / 0-)

    Just Kidding.

    Most of the administration that hired Finley and attended his wedding are now at Minnesota. I bet if you ask VCU's form AD, Norwood Teague, to comment off the record, he waould be appalled.

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