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Former ASU women's lacrosse coach files lawsuit claiming wrongful termination

Courtney Connor says the University responded to her allegations of Title IX violations 'with deliberate indifference'

20170914 asu charter stock

A student rides past the ASU Charter sign on the Tempe campus on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.

Former ASU women's lacrosse coach Courtney Connor is suing ASU and the Arizona Board of Regents claiming she was wrongfully terminated as a result of reporting numerous Title IX violations against the University's athletic department.

In the lawsuit filed Jan. 3 in U.S. District Court, Connor's Title IX complaints against the athletic department included documentation of instances of sexual harassment and gender inequity. 

Connor was hired in November 2015 to build ASU's women's lacrosse program, something the University was looking to do in order "to remedy its failure to comply with Title IX's requirement of gender equity in its athletics program," according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after joining ASU, Connor states in the lawsuit NCAA investigators interviewed her as part of an investigation into complaints of gender inequity in the athletic department. In answering questions, Connor revealed many cases of gender inequity in the resources, funding and staff made available for the women's lacrosse program. 

Connor alleges in the lawsuit her supervisors, including former ASU associate athletics director Scottie Graham, expressed anger about her reports of gender inequity within the athletics department. Connor claims the athletic department then created a hostile work environment for her and furthered gender inequities.

The lawsuit also alleges Connor complained of sexual harassment she and her female colleagues experienced at the hands of male supervisors, including "sexual touching, comments, and propositioning."

Connor alleges she followed the appropriate routes for reporting these incidents, but ASU and ABOR did not properly investigate her claims. Connor was removed from her position on April 29, 2019. 

Connor appealed her termination on May 3, 2019, with ASU's human resources office, claiming it was "discriminatory and in retaliation against her for engaging in protected conduct." 

Connor's lawsuit claims ASU responded to her allegations "with deliberate indifference." Connor alleges the University failed to investigate her claims and failed to promptly make a decision on her claims, making the final decision over 10 months after Connor's complaint.

Connor led women's lacrosse to a 12-24 record in the two Division I seasons ASU played during her tenure. Before coming to ASU, she served as a lacrosse analyst on ESPN and Big Ten Network and coached at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County from 2005-09.

Connor's lawsuit comes six months after former ASU associate athletic director David Cohen filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the University and ASU athletic director Ray Anderson. Cohen alleged that he was fired after making sexual harassment allegations against former booster Bart Wear.

Connor's lawyer, Robert Ekstrand, did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication. 

Spokespeople from ASU and ABOR did not provide comment on the matter due to the still-pending litigation.

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Kathryn FieldSports Editor

Kathryn Field is a sports editor at The State Press. Kathryn has previously worked as a full time reporter at The State Press, covering women’s basketball and lacrosse.

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