After reading through the lengthy court documents of the Surina Dixon lawsuit against Texas Southern I couldn’t help but notice the name Cynthia Cooper.
I suppose we should all be pleased that a Houston judge dropped the hammer down on TSU while protecting the sanctity of Title IX and women’s basketball coaches everywhere by awarding Dixon $730,000 due to alleged gender discrimination and retaliation.
The ruling obviously exorcised demons for Dixon and damages the reputation of TSU, who has been no stranger to controversy after the school fired head football coach Johnnie Cole after revelations of NCAA violations under his watch following winning its first SWAC championship in 64 years.
But that’s not the story. The story is the administration wanting Cooper — who had a successful stint at cross town rival Prairie View before stepping down last May to accept the University of North Carolina-Wilmington job — to be the women’s head coach back in April of 2008 shortly after promising Dixon the position.
According to court documents, “Dixon was told by then incoming athletic director Charles McClelland that he wanted her to step down as head coach and take a position as the top assistant on the same staff as Cooper, who they wanted to be the next head coach.”
It was then intimated that if Dixon did not take the offer, she would be fired.
Cole, who the interim athletics director and football coach at the time, informed Coach Dixon that she had no choice in the matter, documents said.
It was also alleged that, “Then, Coach (Tony) Harvey (the men’s basketball coach) asked, “What if [Coach Dixon] received a 3-year guaranteed contract as the assistant and a salary of $90,000 a year?” Again, Dixon told them that she was not interested in the proposal.”
On April 18, while Dixon was recruiting in Raleigh, North Carolina, Cole informed her that Mr. McClelland was going to move forward with his plan to bring in along. Cynthia Cooper.
The plot thickens.
Dixon received a call from McClelland April 21 around confirming what Cole had mentioned earlier, informing Dixon that he was going to move forward with his decision to bring Cynthia Cooper in as the head women’s basketball coach.
Two days later Dixon informed him of the ultimatum that McClelland and Cole had presented. Dixon later informed school president John Rudley that she was not interested in stepping down to be Cooper’s assistant because “Cooper was on a four -year probation with the NCAA and those violations would follow her to TSU.”
In January 2008, the NCAA penalized Prairie View for NCAA rules violations committed by Cooper, reducing the number of scholarships for the team. The school was placed on four years’ probation for major violations in 2005–2006 that ranged from Cooper giving players small amounts of cash to various forms of unauthorized practices. Cooper also gave players free tickets to Houston Comets games, which is another NCAA infraction.
Dixon was also apprehensive that Cooper didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, less head coaching experience and it was possible for Cooper to “fire her within a week if she took the job as an assistant.”
Soon after, Dixon was informed that TSU was no longer going to go with Cooper and that it was going to sign her to her original contract, documents said.
After discovering this, it appeared the university never really wanted Dixon to be the women’s head coach. As soon as a marquee name surfaced, Dixon was viewed as dispensable. Only when Dixon rebuffed at the notion of Cooper moving in on her territory, did administration stop pursuing the Hall of Fame basketball player.
Texas Southern should be ashamed of themselves if this is true. How can a professional organization (and I use that pretty loosely in this case) be so sinister, deceitful, manipulative and flat out dirty?
You can’t run a college athletic department like a mom and pop shop. You can’t treat employees or potential employees the same as teenage fast food workers. You don’t make promises and then renege on them or strong arm personnel. Families, livelihoods and careers are affected as a result.
Remember when Grambling State head football coach Doug Williams said, “If we (SWAC) keep doing business the way we’ve done it, we are going to put ourselves right out of business” a few weeks ago?
I think this is what he was talking about.