Former Fresno State volleyball coach Lindy Vivas, a Punahou School alumna, yesterday won a $5.85 million lawsuit against the college.
Punahou alum wins $5.85M suit
A former Fresno State coach prevails in a discrimination case
STORY SUMMARY »
Punahou School graduate Lindy Vivas won a $5.85 million verdict yesterday after a jury ruled that the former Fresno State volleyball coach was discriminated against for speaking up on behalf of female athletes at the school.
Vivas, 50, said her contract was not renewed in 2004 because she asked for equal treatment of female student-athletes, including having the same access to facilities that the men do on the Fresno State campus.
Fresno State athletic department officials said she was fired after two years for not meeting performance goals, despite her leading the team to its best season in school history.
FULL STORY »
FRESNO, Calif. » A former Fresno State volleyball coach was awarded $5.85 million yesterday by a jury that ruled the school discriminated against her for speaking up on behalf of female athletes.
Lindy Vivas, a Punahou School graduate, was fired in 2004, two years after coaching her team to its best season in history. University officials said Vivas was let go because she did not meet performance goals and ran a team that often played in empty arenas.
The 50-year-old coach sued, saying her contract was not renewed because she advocated for equal treatment of women athletes and access to facilities on the campus.
The jury award, which took into account Vivas' back wages, future lost pay and emotional distress, is likely the largest ever granted to a coach suing for retaliation under Title IX, said the coach's lawyer, Dan Siegel.
Former Fresno State volleyball coach Lindy Vivas, right, hugged her mother, Nancy Vivas, yesterday after a jury awarded her $5.85 million in her discrimination lawsuit against Fresno State. CLICK FOR LARGE
Title IX is a landmark federal law co-authored by the late Hawaii Congresswoman Patsy Mink requiring gender equity in scholastic athletics.
"Fresno State wants to be a big-time athletic power, but it has to start acting like one. That means treating men and women the same," Siegel said. "This is a complete vindication of her and who Lindy is as a person, as a coach, and what she had to live with as a result of their actions."
University officials said they feared publicity had influenced the outcome of the trial and planned to appeal the case "on a variety of grounds."
"We're extremely disappointed that the jury did not see that the university's actions in this matter were based solely on Ms. Vivas' job performance and her unwillingness to improve the volleyball program," the university said in a statement.
Thirty-five years after Congress passed Title IX, the percentage of women's teams coached by women is at its lowest point ever, and the average salaries for coaches of women's teams still trail those of coaches for men's teams, according to an Associated Press review of statistics provided by the NCAA and other groups.
"Everyone has been watching for this verdict because it explains to everyone that we weren't crazy, that it was real," Fresno State softball coach Margie Wright said. "It's awesome."
Wright, a member of the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, has filed a complaint accusing the school of retaliating against her for supporting gender equity, with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, charged with monitoring whether schools are obeying the law.