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Former Coach Sues on Basis of Title IX
Telford accuses St. Bonaventure of inequalities
BUFFALO – Former Bonnie’s women’s basketball head coach Mary Jane Telford filed a federal discrimination suit on March 17, assisting in growing national concerns of gender equality. Court papers named St. Bonaventure University; Robert J. Wickenheiser, University president; and Tom O’Connor, Director of Athletics, as defendants in the civil action lawsuit.
Telford alleges the University violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Pay Act, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any educational institution receiving federal money.
Telford is suing for reinstatement of her coaching position, wages she says are owed to her, and a court injunction ordering University compliance with Title IX.
Wickenheiser said it would be “premature to comment” before he studies the suit. “Certainly the University will cooperate with this matter at every stage,” he said.
According to court papers, Telford said her resignation in March 1993 was made under pressure from O’Connor.
Telford also alleges the University was and is in violation of standards set down by Title IX. her complaints contributed to what she calls her forced resignation. her contract was not due to expire until May 31, 1994, and Telford claim she has not received the balance of payment due to her. She says in her complaint that all other employees who terminated employment in 1992-1993 were paid the balance of their contracts. Telford was the only female employee who didn’t receive compensation.
The allegations question University actions from 1988 to 1993. Among her specific charges are unequal salaries between the men’s and women’s coaching staffs; and inequalities in facilities, budgets, equipment, and support staff.
Court papers also state, “Defendant, St. Bonaventure, has a policy, custom or practice of discrimination on the basis of sex in the facilities, accommodations, and equipment provided to its female student athletic program in general and its women’s basketball program in particular.”
While O’Connor would not comment on the specific of the case, he said the University is committed to Title IX. “We have made an effort to improve all athletic teams,” he said. “We continually want to move in the direction of quality and balanced.”
The University declined to release budget figures for the past two years. However, figures from the 1991-1992 budget year show a significant disparity between men’s and women’s athletics. The women’s basketball program was budgeted $180,947 while the men’s team was allotted $497,565.
In moving toward compliance with Title IX, the athletic department equalized scholarships and teams this year. The University currently fields seven varsity teams in men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics and provides equal scholarship dollars. The number of athletes is nearly equal with 109 men and 100 women on team rosters.
“Under a new athletic administration, significant steps have been taken during the past 18 months to upgrade the University’s entire athletic program, with special emphasis on women’s athletics,” Wickenheiser said in a University statement.
Current women’s head coach Marti Whitmore said she did not feel discriminated against either as a player or as a coach.
“I have no complaints,” she said.
Telford did not return repeated phone calls.
Wins Push Women Over .500
While outside temperatures were hitting all time lows, the women’s basketball team was heating up inside the Reilly Center last week. The Bonnies posted wins over Canisius and Temple, bringing their record to 8-7 overall, 3-3 in the Atlantic 10.
The chilly air inside the arena may have made it uncomfortable for fans and media, but the players and coaches didn’t seem to mind. “I don’t know if it affected them physically, but mentally we just didn’t think about it,” said assistant coach Courtney Romeiser. “We practice in it (the cold) all the time, so we’re used to it”
The Bonnies met A-10 rival Temple last Saturday. Despite a defensive lapse midway through the first half, the women turned in an impressive performance en route to a 76-63 victory, their third in conference play.
The women jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead on a jumper by sophomore Lisa Vizzoca. However, sloppy passing by the Bonnies allowed the Owls to put together an 18-9 run and take a 20-19 lead.
omeiser said the passing breakdown didn’t worry her too much. “It should’ve been a bigger lead,” she said. “Sometimes when a team jumps out to a lead like that there’s a let down. Mentally you think you’re in control and you let up on passing and defense.”
The game was unexpectedly stopped with 4:21 left in the first half, as a campus-wide power surge force the shutdown of the Reilly Center lights. Play was delayed for approximately 15 minutes while the lights were turned back on and warmed up. Despite the lengthy pause, the women finished the half strong as junior Melissa Jurecki sored to give the team a 39-29 lead.
The second half proved to be all Bonnies, despite some missed lay-ups. Tighter passing and aggressive rebounding allowed the team to build their biggest lead of the game, 59-44, on a 15-foot jumper by senior Casey Comoroski. Temple was unable to break a tenacious man defense or the Bonnies’ press, as they committed a total of 23 turnovers.
“We had a few lapses in defense,” Comoroski said. “We don’t communciate and tend to go individual, not team. it’s something we have to work on day to day.”
Jurecki and Comoroski led the team in scoring, each tallying 15 points. Junior Christine Powers racked up 13 points, while junior Suzie Dailer was 2-4 from three-point land, scoring 12 points.
Jurecki also led the team in rebounding, grabbing 11 boards, with Dailer finishing second with eight.
With the victory against Temple, the Bonnies have already surpassed last year’s conference win total. Comoroski said the wins have helped team morale.
“We play all the time,” Comoroski said. “We’ve made it known that we don’t want to be at the bottom of the barrel; we want someone else there.”
A milestone in women’s basketball history was almost reached during the game. Comoroski finished with six assists, which gives her 414 for her career, one shy of the team record. However, Comoroski said she’s not thinking about it.
“it’s a goal that’s going to happen, but I don’t think about it,” she said. “I’m not very individual, I’m more of a team person. If we go down to West Virginia and I don’t get an assist but we win, I’ll be happy.”
“I hve to thank teammates and others who took it to the hole for me. It’s the whole team giving me this record.”
The women faced off against Canisius on Jan. 18. the Griffins were never in this one as the Bonnies raced out to a 49-36 halftime lead. A tight press and quick offense forced Canisius to commit multiple mental errors and 21 turnovers, as both their offense and defense crumbled under the Bonaventure onslaught.
Leading scorers for the Bonnies were Dailer with 14 points and sophomore Amy Rooks with 12. Peterson, Powers, and senior Carrie Bordas also posted double figures.
Jurecki and Bordas led the team in rebounding as they each tallied four.
Big East Change May Affect A-10
Just as the Atlantic 10 arrived in national prominence, it seems that the floor is ready to fall out beneath it. At meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday and Wednesday, athletic directors from the Big East met to discuss possible realignment plans for the conference.
John Parquette, assistant commissioner for public relations for the Big East, said the meetings dealt mostly with A-10 football. “The concentration is on football. We’re not expecting a final decision out of these meetings, but a general direction.”
St. Bonaventure Athletic Director Tom O’Connor said the possible change does not come as a surprise to him.
“There will be some movement in conference alignment over some period of time, whether that is weeks, months, or years,” he said. “We have to keep our antennae out and do what’s best for St. Bonaventure.”
The driving force behind any realignment will be football. Although several options exist, two are most probable.
The first option has West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple, and Virginia Tech joining the Big East to form an all-sports conference. UMass is not included in the realignment because they field a Division I-AA football team, not I-A.
The second option does not directly involve the A-10. The football schools of the Big East: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Villanova, and Boston College, could split to form their own league. This would leave the remaining non-football schools: Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Georgetown, able to recruit other schools to their conference. Candidates could come from the A-10, the Great Midwest, independents, or all three.
Ron Bertovich, commissioner of the Atlantic 10, said the possibility the realignment would happen was always present.
“Our I-A (football) schools have said from day one that they would like to be in an all-sports conference,” he said. “That has always been a possibility.”
O’Connor would like to see the Atlantic 10 stay intact, but admits collegiate sports will not stay the same.
“Over the next couple of years, we’ll see the whole landscape of collegiate athletics changing,” he said. “I think there will be a few major football conferences and more smaller conferences.”
Parquette, on the other hand, stressed that maintaining the Big East is not a primary concern. Although he would not speculate on what would be the final outcome, eh said there will definitely be a change.
“The status quo is not an option for us,” Parquette said. “I do not think we’ll stay the way we are.”
The potential loss of schools in men’s basketball puts the future of the A-10 in a different light. O’Connor said the conference would still be viable with six teams. In addition, it would be abel to recruit other teams, such as nationally-ranked Xavier (Ohio), which expressed interest in joining this spring, but was voted down.
Bertovich said the conference is prepared in the eventuality that Temple, West Virginia, and Rutgers leave, but would not elaborate on details. He also said because of prior commitments, no changes would be effected for at least another year.
“We have a plan A and a plan B, but that’s all I’ll say,” Bertovich said. “All the A-10 schools are committed through the ’94-’95 season. If they leave, we will maintain our integrity as a conference and seek other members”