December 14, 2007

Title IX Lawsuits - Inequity within Inequity.

Many volleyfolks were thrilled to hear that former Fresno State University Volleyball Coach Lindy Vivas had won her Title IX lawsuit. Knowing Coach Vivas in a professional manner only, I did not see eye to eye with her on many issue within the sport, but I always respected and admired her never ending efforts to develop and promote women's volleyball. I was happy to hear that she had prevailed in her efforts to illustrate a bad situation.

As happy as I am for Coach Vivas and for the positives that may come from her lawsuit for women's college volleyball, I was disheartened by another recent successful lawsuit.

Stacy Johnson-Klein, former Fresno State University Head Women's Basketball Coach was awarded 19.1 million dollars in her Title IX lawsuit. Many feel the amount may be reduced by the judge.

Coach Vivas was awarded 5.85 million, which was later reduced to 4.52 million.

Understand why I am disheartened? Why does Coach Vivas only merit a 5.85 million dollar verdict and Coach Johnson-Klein receive a 19.1 million dollar verdict?

The specific breakdown of the judgement:

Back Pay - Vivas (2.65 m.)/Klein (600k)

Future Lost Wages - Vivas (1.8 m.)/Klein (4.4 m)

Past and Future non-economic losses-Emotional distress - Vivas (1.425 m.)/Klein (14 m.)

Without knowing the specifics of the case and the exact nature of the charges made by each coach, I can only make three general observations about the amounts awarded:

1. The attorneys for Klein asked for a larger dollar amount and/or were more talented than the attorneys for Vivas.

2. The level of discrimination suffered by Klein was significantly more blatant and harming than suffered by Vivas.

3. The jury perceived the basketball coach being of a higher value than the volleyball coach.

If the answer was #1, then congratulations to the great attorneys working for Klein. If the answer was #2, then Klein must have gone through one heck of an ordeal while working for Fresno State and I wish her the best. If the answer was #3, then our sport still has 14 million reasons to keep fighting for and demanding more respect for women's volleyball in the United States.

What perplexes me about this situation is that Coach Vivas had established a long tenure of success in one of the toughest volleyball conferences in the country and she did this at a school-location that it is not an easy place to recruit.

Coach Klein, was not at Fresno State that long, to my knowledge did not come to Fresno State with head coaching experience and I don't believe the program was that successful while competing in an average ranked women's basketball conference.

It is just frustrating to understand the disparity between the verdicts, other than to submit to the knowledge that women's college volleyball has been bettered by women's basketball for the respect of the public.

Women's Volleyball enjoys the status as the number one sport for women in every industrialized nation in the word, except the United State of America. My heartfelt THANK YOU to Lindy Vivas for always trying to change this statistic and then for having the COURAGE to stand up and demand better when everything was on the line.

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