Thursday, September 27, 2012

Former Lady Vols media director sues, claims Summitt was forced out

The University of Tennessee's former Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations is suing the university and Athletic Director Dave Hart.

Debby Jennings, the long-time coordinator who worked closely with the Lady Vols and Pat Summitt, announced her retirement in May. But a week later, Jennings' attorney claimed she was forced out, and hinted that a lawsuit could be filed.

On Thursday, the suit was filed, with Jennings claiming unlawful discrimination and retaliation. She is asking for a trial by jury along with monetary and injunctive relief.

According to attorney David Burkhalter, Jennings is specifically asking for a court order to require Hart and others in the athletics department to undergo "appropriate diversity and ethics training."

In the lawsuit, Jennings also claims that Dave Hart forced Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt to step down. She says Hart met with Summitt in March before the NCAA tournament and informed her she would no longer coach the Lady Vols.

Jennings goes on to say that Hart informed Summitt he would be hiring Holly Warlick as the Lady Vols head coach.

She says Summitt told her of the meeting and that she was "very upset and extremely hurt."

When Summitt announced her retirement, Summitt said it was her idea to step down because of her battle with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

Tennessee Vice Chancellor for Communications, Margie Nichols, cited that press conference and said Jennings' claims are baseless, calling them "absolutely not true." She said it was Summitt's idea to become head coach emeritus.

Jennings has deferred comment to her attorney.

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