San Diego State University is being sued by former women’s basketball coach Beth Burns who claims she was fired in retaliation for demanding equal treatment of women’s athletics programs.
Burns left SDSU abruptly in April after a 27-win season and with more wins than any coach in the history of San Diego State University women’s basketball.
She claims she was told she must either resign, retire or be fired due to an alleged workplace violence incident caught on videotape but the lawsuit claims her termination was retaliation for complaining about unfair treatment between men’s and women’s athletics at the Division I school.
At an April 16, 2013 meeting, Burns says she was pressured to retire for allegedly striking a subordinate.
The alleged incident was captured on video in February 2013 during a game against Colorado State. Burns can be seen twice making contact with assistant coach Adam Barrett. The first time, she appears to hit a clipboard Barrett was holding. Later, she appears to hit the coach in the shoulder.
Burns, who argues she did not strike anyone intentionally, opted to retire to save her pension, the lawsuit claims.
After the university made the announcement, neither side said much about the decision despite repeated requests from NBC 7.
Now, in a lawsuit filed Wednesday claiming breach of contract, Burns claims that SDSU officials fired her as retaliation for her complaints.
Burns attorneys claim their client “refused to remain silent” and “regularly complained” about the differences in support for housing, facilities, staffing and equipment between the men’s and women’s basketball programs.
Not only does Burns say she spent her thousands of her own money to help support staff and the team, she also makes the allegation that SDSU forced the team to count male practice players as female participants in the university’s annual mandatory gender equity report.
An SDSU spokesperson refused to comment on the details of the suit saying the university doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Burns filed a contract extension in July 2012 with an annual salary of $220,000.
The suit claims she not only lost $880,000 in earnings but has been unable to get employment elsewhere based on damage done to her professional reputation.
Court documents show Burns filed claims with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing in October and against the California State University Systemwide Risk Management Office in November.
Burns helped the Aztecs make seven NCAA appearances during her career, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2010. She also led her team to six regular-season conference championships and four league tournament titles.
She was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year for her last two seasons with the team.
A settlement obtained by NBC 7 in July shows SDSU paid Barrett and his attorney a total of $250,000 over Barrett’s contract not being renewed.