Drake University, Head Basketball Coach Involved in Lawsuit

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Drake University head basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk involved in lawsuit filed by former assistant basketball coach Courtney Graham. (WHO-HD)

Drake University head basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk involved in lawsuit filed by former assistant basketball coach Courtney Graham. (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa  — A former Drake University coach has filed a lawsuit against the school and women’s basketball team head coach Jennie Baranczyk.

Courtney Graham was one of the first hires made by Baranczyk in May 2012, but according to the lawsuit filed on Friday, Baranczyk pressured Graham to resign as assistant women’s basketball coach after her sexual orientation became public.

There are six charges listed in the petition including sexual orientation discrimination, negligence, emotional distress, and harassment. There are also two charges of retaliation in the suit.

The lawsuit points to a series of actions such as stripping Graham of her responsibilities and denying her compensation, which eventually forced her to resign in 2015.

In a statement on Wednesday, Drake University denied the allegations, adding that the university and Coach Baranczyk “have a strong commitment to diversity, tolerance, and non-discrimination.”

Graham’s attorney, Tina Muhammad, says it’s no coincidence that the shift in the way Graham was treated came right after her sexual orientation became public.

In its statement, Drake noted that Graham already brought these allegations to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, and that the Commission “found the facts and information did not support a reasonable possibility that further investigation would reveal discrimination occurred.”

The case was dropped, but Graham’s attorney says the Commission findings will not impact their case.

“The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is not a judge, is not a jury, but I’m not negating the importance of what they do or that they’ve done their job, that’s just their opinion based on a cursory review of the facts. Based really on the answers to a questionnaire,” says Muhammad.

Muhammad tells us that the Commission looks to see if there is merit at the surface level of a claim. She adds that they have to file a complaint before they can get a ‘right to sue’ letter.

This lawsuit comes just over a month after a former athletic trainer filed a suit for wrongful termination.

Head athletic trainer Scott Kerr filed a complaint in November with the Civil Rights Commission claiming he was fired because of a medical condition that led to him urinating in a training room whirlpool.

The university says Kerr was fired for his actions, not because of any condition or disability.