UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

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UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by Geezaldinho on Mon Jan 14, 2008 10:34 am

Melissa Jennings won a settlement against UNC and Anson Dorrance today, according to the Daily Tarheel.

Highly successful women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance avoided trial but was forced to apologize for inappropriate discussions about sex among his teams.

Jennings, plaintiff in the sexual hassrassment and invasion of privacy lawsuit filed in 1998, will receive $385,000 in the settlement.
You can read the full story at: Daily Tarheel

And according to the Charlotte observer, "The settlement provides for a full review and revision of UNC's sexual harassment policies by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer who is now a Florida Coastal School of Law assistant professor specializing in women's equity in sports."

It's been 10 years, but a win across the board for Jennings.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by Stonehouse on Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:24 am

Wow... I've never even heard of this story before.

Nice find, Geezer! I mean... searching out the student papers for stories? That's dedication right there.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by Geezaldinho on Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:48 am

The power of the internet. I had my recruiting web spider looking for updates on the lawsuit. It found this story 31 minutes after it was put up.

I'm surprised You haven't heard of it before. Melissa Jennings was cut from the team (at age 17) after she complained about sexual harassment by Dorrance and then filed suit, naming the University, Dorrance, the AD, and the trustees. The defense lawyers fought for 10 years to keep the case out of the courts and almost succeeded through several appeals until a judge decided the case had merit in November. The court date was set for April 7, during which the jury would have heard testimony that Dorrance's conduct went beyond bantering and included "inappropriate touching" with Debbie Keller, an original plaintiff who settled earlier.

You can see the November decision here: court papers

You had to figure the University would settle. I'm sure the trustees didn't want their names on the losing end of that suit. The only question was whether Anson would keep his job. Apparently winning enough National Championships ensured his job security.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by wrv on Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:28 pm

I just read a fair amount of the appellate decision--this guy is a creep. I cannot imagine the parents of players at UNC reading this and being comfortable with Dorrance around their young daughters. The fact that this occurred in an educational setting between a highly successful coach and young, aspiring athletes makes it all the worse. Employer and employee relations arguably would have more balance than the relationship between a D1 coach and player, where the player is fighting for their scholarship and for playing time at a university that is the most successful soccer school in the nation.

There is enough here that I would hope he gets suspended--so that we are not left with the impression that winning is indeed everything at UNC. The factual summary makes me wonder if Dorrance has done far more than has been made public by this litigation. What has been made public describes shameful, disgusting conduct, violative of every norm of acceptable behavior for a coach.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by UPSoccerFanatic on Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:04 pm

I haven't read the Court of Appeals decision yet, but I have read the previous articles in the Daily Tar Heel. One thing I found very interesting was Jennings' attorney's statement that Dorrance, in his deposition, "denied any memory of what topics were discussed (with the team), and he could not admit or deny, because of his lack of memory, whether they were of a sexual nature." At the same time, I've been reading The Man Watching, by Tim Crothers, which is an authorized (and presumably one Dorrance thinks puts him in a good light) biography of Dorrance, with particular emphasis on his coaching of the NC women. Besides the fact that I don't like the person the book describes or the culture it indicates he created on the women's team, it is clear to me that he remembers very minute details about things -- at least about things he wants to remember.

Also, I have to say that being a male coach of young women myself (high school), I am absolutely certain that if I ever had even overheard, much less been part of, a discussion about the sex lives of my players, I would be fully aware of it. I have every confidence that if Dorrance testified that he couldn't either admit or deny having been involved in such discussions, because of lack of memory, he was lying. There is no way he doesn't remember one way or the other. My only question is whether that is just Jennings' attorney talking or whether that in fact is how Dorrance testified.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by GUPhantom on Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:14 pm

I hadn't heard of this story either. Thanks for posting it Geezer. I was stunned at the what I read in the court's papers. And then appalled at the contrasting account in the Daily Tarheel. The spin machine did a good job of distancing themselves of any guilt. Multiple NCAA Championships will get you a pass, huh? Dorrance will only get a yellow card I guess? I don't know, I've lost a measure of respect for Dorrance as a soccer fan. All those trophies have tarnished a little bit and lost some gleam. It'll be interesting to see if he can maintain the program and continue to attract top players from this point and into the future. In the last 10 years since the lawsuit...it didn't looked like it prevented him from signing some of the top classes in collegiate soccer.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by Geezaldinho on Tue Jan 15, 2008 12:43 pm

UPSF,
In the settlement agreement Dorrance acknowledges that he made the sorts of comments Jennings claimed he made ( the appellate court decision called those "indisputable facts" . The trial was to determine the result of his making those statements)

For those of you who are interested in a more complete review of the case and the actual settlement agreement free of UNC spin,

go here: Inside higher ed story for the story.

go here: Settlement agreement for a pdf of the settlement agreement.

(the settlement agreement is also available from within the article ( paragraph eight). It may link more quickly. There's high traffic as I write this, be patient.)

Near as I can see, Jenning's only concession was to agree Dorrance or the coaching staff never made a pass at her or had sexual relations with her - a claim she never made.

So far,

UNC paid Debbie Keller $70,000 and Dorrance agreed to 8 years of harassment counseling in that case.
UNC paid Jennings $385,000 and Dorance wrote an apology letter to her and to players who played for him from 1996-1998, stating that his conduct was "innapropriate" and "unacceptable" - the essence of the suit in the first place.

UNC must undergo a review of its sexual harassment policies by this summer, and that these new policies will be reviewed by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, former Olympic swimmer and now a professor of Law at the University of Central Florida who specializes in Title IX and women's sports. She's not exactly a neutral person. I assume UNC will also pay for her time.

UNC and the state of North Carolina has spent Millions in legal fees to defend all the principals named in the suit.- Dorrance, a couple of AD's, a couple Chancellors, The board of Governors, several coaches, among others.. (The State says it didn't keep track - yeah, sure)

UNC and Dorrance were unable to keep the agreement sealed, which I consider a sign of lack of leverage on their part.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this whole affair is the position of the University of North Carolina, as expressed by the Chancellor (and codefendant) in this excerpt where he denies the very admissions made in the settlement, i.e. that Dorrance conducted himself in a reprehensible fashion:

Added Chancellor James Moeser: “We have never believed that the case had any merit. We’ve stood by Coach Dorrance since this case started and we stand by him now. Anson has for 25 plus years demonstrated a strong support of his student-athletes, is a great teacher, and has been a leader in advancing opportunities for women in intercollegiate athletics.”

Yup, sounds like Dorrance was vindicated --- NOT

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by GUPhantom on Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:11 pm

Thanks again for posting the new links Geezer.

I especially enjoyed the public comments posted under the "Inside Higher Ed" article. Everyone should read them if you haven't read them already. There's one in particular headed as "Understandable" that was posted by a former soccer player. Very smart and poignant remarks from her.

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by UPSoccerFanatic on Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:44 pm

Wow, I've just read most of the Court of Appeals decision. Although the "facts" recited by the Court are the evidence most favorable to Jennings, which the jury might or might not have believed, I was even more shocked than I thought I would be. What a totally slimy situation on the North Carolina women's soccer team. I assume it isn't as bad now as it was then -- given the 10 years of legal wrangling. But after reading the Court opinion and most of "The Man Watching," there's no way I'd let a daughter (or more likely, granddaughter) of mine get anywhere near NC soccer as long as Dorrance is there. He has major boundary problems with young women for which most coaches would have been fired long ago.

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...and the other shoe drops

Post by Geezaldinho on Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:26 pm

The Daily TarHeel is now running a story about the further consequences of the settlement agreement - i.e. that the Harassment policies at the University will be reviewed and revised.

You can check it out here:
Daily TarHeel

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by UPSoccerFanatic on Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:43 am

Here's an interesting quote from Coach Dorrance about why he was in favor of settling the case: "What is innocent in reality could appear as salacious when spun by their lawyers. The way I see it, you have to really understand how our soccer program works. Our athletic culture is unique. Someone in that jury box might come out to practice and hear what I say to these girls and while it's not wrong, they just wouldn't understand it out of context." From The Man Watching, Tim Crothers (Sports Media Group 2006).

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Re: UNC settles Anson Dorrance case

Post by Geezaldinho on Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:42 pm

I found a law review article from the firm of BROOKS, PIERCE, MCLENDON, HUMPHREY & LEONARD, LLP that uses the Jennings v Dorrance and UNC case as an employment case example. It clarified for me what Jennings burden was before the court in the case (which she met) and what the liability of UNC was in not treating her complaint seriously.

Jennings v. Dorrance and UNC: Soccer, Sex, and Second Hand Harrassment

It enlightened me that the court cited Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and not title IX, in its reasoning. That was probably in the decision, but this piece was more understandable for me.

It also explained the concepts of "second hand harassment" and "disparity of power" and their liability implications for the parties involved, and how the university could have avoided liability by taking Jenning's complaint seriously.

The piece was written before the settlement.

enjoy

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