Judge: OU Must Submit Report On Ex-Coach Who Allegedly Abused Players
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ROCHESTER (WWJ/AP) - A judge on Wednesday ordered Oakland University to turn over an unedited internal report on the firing of women’s basketball coach Beckie Francis, who university officials say abused players.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson said during a hearing Wednesday that she would decide this week how much of the report will remain blacked out.
Francis is suing the 19,000-student school to get specific information on her June 12 firing. She was fired the same day her husband Gary Russi, the university’s president, announced his decision to retire after nearly 20 years heading up the school.
Francis, who called the situation a “witch-hunt,” claims she was never given a specific reason why she was fired. The university said the findings of an “internal review” provide “cause” for Francis’ termination.
University officials allege that Francis physically and emotionally abused her players, was obsessed about their weight and pushed her Christian beliefs on them.
The school said Francis had players photographed in sports bras and spandex to monitor body changes, and some played developed eating problems. She also insisted that players attend church and showed Christian-themed videos on team bus rides, despite being told not to proselytize them as coach, according to the school.
“Oakland University apparently concocted an Internal Investigation into Ms. Francis in June, 2013 which is being used as the basis for her sudden termination,” Francis’ lawyer Deborah Gordon told The Associated Press in an email. “OU has refused to release the file to Ms. Francis in spite of Michigan Law allowing employees to obtain copies of all employment records. We have filed a suit in order to obtain that Investigation report.”
Francis was in two meetings about the report’s findings and knows why she was fired, the school’s attorney, Robert Boonin, said Wednesday. Oakland University also has to consider student privacy and other privacy issues, according to Boonin.
But Gordon said it is crucial for her client to be able to see the full university investigation report, including the identity of players making complaints, whose names were redacted by the university.
“They choose to do an investigation, create a written report and thrown vague allegations around in public, so it is what it is,” Gordon told the Detroit Free Press. “She needs to know what is in that report, not what they say or supposedly told her.”
Francis was hired as the school’s head basketball coach in 1997. During her time as coach, she led the women’s basketball team to two appearances in the NCAA tournament and was named conference coach of the year twice.
Francis, the second-winningest women’s basketball coach in school history, made national news last year when she publicly discussed her past as a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
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