Bolla's lawsuit allegations are similar to Vivas case


POSTED: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A precedent exists for the Title IX allegations former Hawaii women's basketball coach Jim Bolla has levied at the University of Hawaii.

;[Preview]    Bolla Lashes Back Towards UH

Former UH basketball coach filed a lawsuit against the university and various school officials.



Bolla has filed a federal wrongful-termination lawsuit — based on Title IX and the First Amendment — against the school. He claims he was mistreated following efforts to give the UH men and women's basketball teams equal standing.

The suit names the UH Board of Regents, president David McClain, Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw, athletic director Jim Donovan and associate athletic director Carl Clapp as defendants.

In July 2007, a California civil court awarded former Fresno State women's volleyball coach Lindy Vivas $5.85 million after it ruled she was discriminated against for speaking up for women. Vivas, a Punahou graduate, was fired in 2004 after a highly successful season.

Current UH track and field coach Carmyn James filed a Title IX lawsuit against UH in 2007, but later dropped those charges.

A week after his dismissal from UH following an alleged kicking incident with a player, Bolla and his attorney, David Gierlach, are hitting the discrimination angle hard — even as he continues the grievance process of his dismissal through the university.

Title IX refers to the federal act championed by the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink that requires schools receiving federal funds to provide equal opportunities for men and women and to prove they are doing so.

The former coach is seeking reinstatement and monetary damages, but Gierlach said at a press conference yesterday that the issue goes beyond that.

“;At the end of the day, he hopes to achieve parity for the women's basketball team,”; Gierlach said. “;This is a guy who's devoted his life to women in this sport. And he cares deeply about them. Now he's paid for that caring with his job.”;

Gierlach was adamant at the conference about mistreatment to his client within the athletic department after Bolla brought up inadequacies in March 2008, and again in January. Bolla did not attend the conference.

“;I know that other universities have paid multi-million dollar verdicts for violations of Title IX,”; Gierlach said. “;I don't ever predict how a particular lawsuit's going to turn out. But I think the university has significant exposure in this case.”;

A spokesperson at the UH office of general counsel said, “;We don't comment on ongoing matters.”;

Donovan also declined to comment.

Bolla alleges each time he spoke out about unfair treatment toward his coaching staff and players, he suffered “;emotional distress, pain, and humiliation”; from retaliation by UH.

“;Coach Bolla first privately and then publicly made many complaints between the ongoing disparities between the men and women's program in basketball, the allegations that came up against him, some of which were years old, would always come up after he made these complaints,”; Gierlach said. “;We're talking across the board (violations) in terms of the amount of monies funding the men's program vs. the women's, and the availability of authorization to add staff.”;

Bolla's wife, Dallas Bolla, completed his three-person staff of assistants when she was hired at the start of the 2008-09 season. At times over his first four years, Bolla operated with two assistants and without a director of operations.

According to the lawsuit, UH's retaliation included the leaking of information about the alleged kicking incident to the media, particularly to Ferd Lewis of the Honolulu Advertiser. The alleged leaks are in violation of the school's personnel policies regarding confidentiality.

Gierlach said Bolla would address the allegations against him in front of a judge and jury, but that they were “;either outright fabrications or grossly exaggerated.”;

Bolla had two years remaining on his contract, worth an estimated $240,000, but UH isn't entitled to pay any of it because it dismissed him for cause following an investigation of the alleged kicking incident.

In his five years at UH, Bolla led the Wahine to an overall record of 64-80.