This summer, former Fresno State womenâ€™s volleyball coach Lindy Vivas won $5.85 million in a gender discrimination suit against the university, a verdict the school has since appealed.
Meanwhile, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed criticized the award and continues to stand behind University President John D. Welty, saying he felt the jury â€œwas essentially trying to punish the CSU.â€
Vivasâ€™ coaching contract was not renewed in 2004, and she filed a discrimination suit against Fresno State in February 2006. In the suit, Vivas asked for $4.1 million for lost wages and damages. The university offered to settle for $15,000.
Vivas, 50, began her coaching career at Fresno State in 1990. In 2002, her team saw its best season in school history, with a record of 23-7.
She claimed the university discriminated against her because of her perceived sexual orientation and because she advocated equal treatment for female athletes and access to the campusâ€™ facilities.
However, university officials said Vivas was let go because she didnâ€™t meet performance goals by not winning enough post-season games and failing to draw large crowds to the matches. When the universityâ€™s then-athletic director Scott Johnson announced Vivasâ€™ dismissal in 2004, Johnson also said her teamâ€™s inability to finish in the top 25 for more than a decade was another reason for not renewing her contract.
Vivasâ€™ civil trial began in June in the Fresno County Superior Court. Several key players testified in the case, including former Fresno State womenâ€™s basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein and Weltyâ€™s wife, Sharon Brown-Welty.
According to Vivasâ€™ testimony, Johnson and other top athletics officials allegedly participated in â€œUgly Women Athletes Day.â€ She said in April 2000, she walked into a department office and saw a poster that had vulgar cutouts of womenâ€™s bodies with male heads.
â€œI walked in and off to the right was a poster that said ugly woman athletes…I couldnâ€™t believe it was still continuing,â€ Vivas testified. â€œI thought, when was this going to end.â€
Johnson-Klein was expected to testify and support Vivasâ€™ case, but the universityâ€™s attorney attempted to discredit the former basketball coachâ€™s testimony.
During Brown-Weltyâ€™s testimony, she discussed an October 2004 conversation with Johnson-Klein, saying the former basketball coach â€œmentioned to me that she was praying daily that Lindy wouldnâ€™t be offered a contract.â€
â€œShe had her entire church praying that Lindy would not be offered a contract,â€ Brown-Welty testified.
The trial lasted 18 days. Deliberations took three days.
The jury rewarded the former volleyball coach $5.85 million on July 9. However, in late August, attorneys for the university filed a motion to the Fresno County Superior Court that it would be seeking a new trial.
The university issued a press release in July, stating that an appeal of the case would be pursued â€œon a variety of groundsâ€ and that no funds would be paid â€œuntil all appeals are exhausted.â€
Reed called the Vivas settlement â€œexcessiveâ€ at a legislative hearing in late July. Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, requested that Senate leaders create the state Senate Select Committee on Gender Discrimination and Title IX Implementation after the Vivas verdict.
Reed said the CSU system has seen six Title IX cases in the past decade. The 23-campus system won in two of those cases, according to Reed.
Vivas damage award breakdown
The jury divided Vivas’ settlement into the following categories:
â€¢ $2,625,000 for past non-economic losses
â€¢ $875,000 for future non-economic losses
â€¢ $550,000 for past economic losses
â€¢ $1,802,069 for future economic losses