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Former Washington Coach Sues University

Special to NFCA.org 

In a case that has captured national interest, a lawsuit today was filed against the University of Washington alleging sex discrimination under federal and state statutes, violation of due process and liberty rights, wrongful discharge and breach of contract.  Teresa Wilson, head softball coach at UW, was removed from her coaching duties in December of 2003.  The university claims that Wilson knew or should have known of a former athletic team physician’s alleged wrongful practices of prescribing and dispensing drugs to student-athletes even though a federal privacy law prohibits the release of such information.  Wilson, who claims that her personal and professional reputation has been severely damaged, adamantly insists there are no facts to support the university’s actions.   The complaint was filed in U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington, King County Division, and named as defendants the University of Washington, and Lee Huntsman and Norm Arkans, the university’s president and special assistant to the president. 

Wilson led Washington to six of the last eight Women's College World Series. She stands by her desire to return to the university stating, "It is my passion to work with such outstanding student-athletes and together achieve the accomplishments we have on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I look forward to the day our differences are resolved and I step back on the field to continue the UW legacy." 

A college coach for 18 years, formerly at the University of Oregon and University of Minnesota, Wilson was hired as the head softball coach by UW in 1991. Since 1992, Wilson led one of the most successful programs at the university in total wins, conference championships, number of post-season appearances, NCAA Women's College World Series finishes, and number of Pac 10 Academic All Conference student-athletes.  She was named Big Ten Coach of the Year (1991), Pac 10 Conference Coach of the Year (1989, 1996, 2000), NCAA Division I Coach of the Year (1989), and Regional Coach of the Year (1989, 1999).    

Wilson also served as an assistant coach on the USA softball national team (1997 to 1999), and was instrumental in leading the USA team to a Superball Silver Medal (1997), a World Championship (1998), and a Junior World Silver Medal (1999).  She was a member of the USA Women’s National Team Coaching Pool (2001).   

Background on lawsuit: 

Throughout her employment, Wilson expressed concerns over the inequities of the treatment of female student-athletes and over her disparate treatment.  The practices of the athletic training room of UW’s Intercollegiate Athletic Department since 1985 have been the subject of the State of Washington’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission investigations.  During the 2001-2002 academic year, Wilson expressed concern to the university that female student-athletes on the UW softball team were not receiving adequate medical and athletic training care, and asked that a new athletic trainer be assigned to the team.  The university in November 2002, met with Wilson, the head athletic trainer, a university team doctor and assistant general counsel. The consensus of the meeting was that Dr. William Scheyer would be utilized as a consulting secondary source to the softball team only if the UW Physician’s Group was not available.   

In October 2003, the university began an internal investigation of Scheyer for his alleged illegal prescription and dispensement of drugs to student-athletes.  Wilson claims that she was not informed that she was suspected of wrongdoing or a subject of the exhaustive investigation.  Prior to the investigation Wilson had never  been informed of the university’s concerns involving Scheyer’s practices in the UW’s athletic department, nor of any former State of Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission investigations of the practices and procedures of the UW athletic training room and staff. 

Allegedly, the UW investigators asked leading and defaming questions of players and personnel interviewed (during the investigation) that implied wrongdoing by Wilson.  But the internal investigation – still ongoing – has yet to provide any evidence of involvement of Wilson or that she had any knowledge of the doctor’s alleged illegal activities.  Soon after her removal, the university attempted to find reasons to support their actions toward Wilson including an investigation, according to Rayla Allison, Wilson’s attorney, of trumped-up allegations of a secondary (minor) violation of an NCAA playing and practice season rule.   

On December 19, 2003, Wilson was informed she would be reassigned as head softball coach and her contract would not be renewed because of her alleged knowledge or that she should have known of Dr. Scheyer’s alleged practices even though federal privacy law prohibits disclosure of such private information of students. 

“Not only is Coach Wilson’s dismissal unjustifiable and illegal, it is completely inconsistent with any disciplinary actions taken against any male coaches in the athletic department.  She did nothing wrong,” said Allison.  “Furthermore, no other sports programs at UW were investigated for any questionable practices of medical care provided by Dr. Scheyer, even though he attended other teams over the years, including men’s basketball and football.  The school's actions were without merit and now they are attempting to villianize her and create reasons to justify their actions.”   

This information was provided by Shore to Shore Communications.