Former women’s golf coach Katie Brenny and members of the women’s team have widely different accounts of what transpired in their conversations with former director of golf, John Harris and his son-in-law, Ernie Rose about Katie Brenny and her sexual orientation. The university, so far, is defending Harris and Rose in this lawsuit.
The accounts provided by the athletes back up Brenny’s claim that Harris demoted Brenny to secretarial duties when he learned that he had hired a lesbian and promoted Rose in her place. The athletes also say that, before Brenny filed her lawsuit, they told athletic department administrators that they believed Brenny was being discriminated against based on a conversation they had with Ernie Rose in which they say he told them as much. These administrators now do not recall this meeting with the athletes. Assuming the meeting took place, nothing was done to investigate the athletes’ claims.
This is an ugly situation. Rose is accusing the athletes of lying. He claims it was the athletes who raised concerns about changing clothes with a lesbian coach present. Harris claims that Brenny was “insolent,” and defiant. He claims she is an opportunist who filed the lawsuit merely for the opportunity to make a financial gain. He claims she was not a good coach. Harris has quit his job. Both Harris and Rose stand accused of blatant discrimination against a lesbian coach. The university is accused of not acting on concerns expressed by Brenny and two senior athletes.
The University of Minnesota has a lot at stake here. It will be interesting to see if the university continues to back Harris and Rose and the athletic administrators who are being accused of failure to respond to Brenny’s and the athletes’ complaints about Harris and Rose. If they had investigated the situation and addressed their concerns in a timely way and consistent with their own non-discrimination policy, maybe this mess could have been avoided.
The athletes’ account of what happened supports Brenny’s claims. Their account also indicates some serious administrative indifference to allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Are we to believe that both Brenny and the athletes are lying? You have to ask why two young women golfers would lie about this? By stepping forward, they have absolutely nothing to gain and are inviting a lot of serious blowback from Harris, Rose and the University. At a time when they should be enjoying their recent graduation and looking forward to what’s next in their lives, they are embroiled in an ugly discrimination lawsuit in which their honesty and integrity, along with Katie Brenny’s, are being challenged.
It is truly a shame that the athletic department did not address this situation before it came to this. It is difficult to see how anyone truly wins, no matter what the outcome is.