Prairie View A&M announced Tuesday evening that Dawn Brown will not return as women’s basketball coach next season. Brown said she was fired for allegedly violating Title IX by enforcing a team rule that she says was approved by the school’s Title IX coordinator.
“Clearly, I feel betrayed and unjustly penalized by this action,” Brown said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.
Prairie View A&M athletics director Ashley Robinson declined comment through a school spokesperson.
Brown removed two members of her team during the season for having a dating relationship. She said the relationship broke a team rule that she put in place before the season. The rule said: “Players may not have nonprofessional relationships with other players, coaches, managers, trainers, or any other persons affiliated” with the program.
The former players filed a complaint that said their dismissal was based on sexual orientation and that it violated Title IX, the law that bans discrimination based on sex at schools receiving federal funds.
USA TODAY Sports obtained a memorandum written by Catherine Smock, the school’s special assistant to the president for compliance. It says an investigation found that the players were in fact removed from the team because they were in a dating relationship and that they experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation. It says the team rule violated Title IX as well as Texas A&M system policy.
Brown said she instituted the rule after an assistant coach was fired for having an inappropriate relationship with a player. Brown said she “collaborated with my Title IX office in drafting” the rule. Brown said the two former players were suspended indefinitely but retained their scholarships and remain at the school. Brown also said the former players were punished for breaking other team rules that she declined to specify.
Brown said the decision to remove the players “was extremely difficult for me but was made with consultation, encouragement and approval” of the athletics director.
Brown’s agent, Garry Rosenfield, said the school gave his client a choice to resign or be terminated for cause. “We definitely think this is a case of scapegoating,” he said.
Dennis Cordell, president of Coaches Inc., a sports marketing agency, said Brown will appeal: “We feel she’s been wrongfully terminated.” Rosenfield said Brown will have five days to appeal after she receives evidentiary basis for her termination from the school. He said she has not yet received those materials.
Brown led the Panthers to the 2014 SWAC championship and a 16-seed in the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Connecticut 87-44 in the first round. She was 41-51 in three seasons, including 13-15 this season.
Source: USA Today