Former TSU Women's Hoops Coach Sues University
Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court
September 29, 2008.
Surina Dixon, former head women's basketball coach at Texas Southern University in Houston, has filed a federal lawsuit against the school alleging gender discrimination and retaliation. Dixon, who was hired in March by interim athletics director Johnnie Cole and TSU President John Rudley, was fired in June by athletics director Charles McClelland who took over the program in April.
The lawsuit, filed Monday by Houston attorney Todd Slobin on behalf of Dixon, states "Coach Dixon, the former Head Basketball Coach for the Women's Basketball Program at Texas Southern University, brings this action against TSU for gender discrimination and retaliating against her after she complained about gender discrimination and advocating for gender equity in TSU's Athletic Department. Coach Dixon brings this case against TSU under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which mandates, according to the lawsuit, equitable pay for females holding similar positions as their male counterparts."
According to the lawsuit Dixon agreed to a four-year contract offered to her by Cole and Dr. Rudley. After working at TSU for three months, McClelland changed the school's offer to a one year contract. After finding out the terms of the TSU offer had been changed by McClelland, Dixon complained and told McClelland the contract was discriminatory. Dixon then hired an attorney who notified the school in writing that the one-year contract was discriminatory. In response, according to the lawsuit, TSU fired Dixon.
"I believe because I questioned the terms of the contract, the years, the salary, which were a huge gender difference and because I was questioning those things, I think that I was terminated based on sex discrimination and retaliation," Dixon said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports.
Dixon's lawsuit points out she was offered a one year contract at $75,000, while the new men's basketball coach at TSU, Tony Harvey, received a five-year contract at $150,000 per year.
According to the lawsuit McClelland told Dixon she was getting a one-year contract because she had to prove herself, even though she had previous head coaching experience and Harvey had none.
The lawsuit also states McClelland wanted to replace Dixon with Prairie View A and M head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who McClelland had hired at Prairie View when he was athletics director there. The school eventually hired Yolanda Wells-Broughton who was an assistant at LSU.
The federal lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Houston, does not ask for a specific dollar amount but does "seek equitable relief, back pay and front pay, compensatory damages, attorney's fees, expert witness fees, taxable court costs, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest."
"I just want to see Texas Southern be fair with women when negotiating their contracts," Dixon said.
McClelland told FOX 26 Sports he can't comment on the specifics of the lawsuit because he has not seen it.
"I have not received anything at this point, but I am confident that Texas Southern University has followed all local, state, and federal laws, and NCAA rules and regulations," McClelland said.
The lawsuit asks for a trial by jury.