Women’s basketball coach fired after suspending players for dating

Did a women’s college basketball coach violate the Title IX rights of two of her players when she kicked them off the team for dating each other, a violation of the coach’s written rules?

That’s the question surrounding Dawn Brown’s dismissal as coach at Prairie View A&M, which came last week when she was asked to resign or be terminated and she chose the latter in order to appeal. According to Brown, she was fired for violating Title IX when she enforced a team rule that, she says, was approved by A&M’s Title IX coordinator. Title IX is the federal law that bans sexual discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Prairie View A&M is located northwest of Houston. 

“Clearly, I feel betrayed and unjustly penalized by this action,” Brown said in a statement to USA Today. Ashley Robinson, the school’s athletic director declined to comment for USA Today.

According to Brown, the players’ relationship violated a rule that stipulated: “Players may not have nonprofessional relationships with other players, coaches, managers, trainers, or any other persons affiliated” with the program. The rule, Brown said, was written after an assistant coach was fired for having an inappropriate relationship with a player. The former players have filed a complaint alleging that Brown’s act was based on sexual orientation and, therefore, violated Title IX.

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“We definitely think this is a case of scapegoating,” Brown’s agent, Garry Rosenfield, told USA Today.

USA Today obtained a memorandum written by Catherine Smock, the school’s special assistant to the president for compliance, that indicates that an investigation found that the players were kicked off the team because of their relationship and that they experienced discrimination over their sexual orientation. The memo states that the team rule violated Title IX and policy within the Texas A&M system.

The two former players remain in school and on scholarship and Brown intends to appeal her termination.