CASE/NUMBER: Michael Burch v. The Regents of the University of California, et al. / S040038WBS
COURT/DATE: USDC Eastern / November 30, 2006
JUDGE: William B. Shubb
ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff — Dan M. Siegel (Siegel & Yee, Oakland); Kristen Galles (Equity Legal, Alexandria, VA). Defendant — Nancy J. Sheehan, George A. Acero (Porter, Scott, Weiberg & Delehant, Sacramento)
ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff — Donna LoPiano, university title IX compliance, East Meadow, NY. Defendant — Judy Sweet, university title IX compliance, Indianapolis, IN.
FACTS: Michael Burch was the head wrestling coach at the University of California, Davis, from fall 1995 through spring 2001, when his contract was not renewed and his employment was terminated. During his tenure, the record of the varsity wrestling team improved each year and had a winning record during his last year of employment.
The University claimed that it did not renew his contract because he violated University rules and was a difficult and contentious employee. Burch claimed that he was terminated because he advocated for the right of women to participate in the wrestling program and embarrassed athletic department officials who had banned women from the program.
Plaintiff’s contentions: The NCAA Division 1 wrestling program at UC Davis had languished for many years before Burch was named head wrestling coach. Several women had participated in the program and some had become internationally successful. Burch trained and supported women wrestlers, who participated against women in open and invitational wrestling meets although they did not compete on the UC Davis squad in its matches with other universities which fielded all male teams.
In Fall 2000, athletic department administrators advised Burch that women could no longer participate in the varsity program. Burch and student wrestlers, both men and women, opposed this decision. By May 2001, there were campus demonstrations, protests by the student senate, negative newspaper articles and criticism of the university’s decision by a member of the State Legislature. University officials blamed Burch for the protests and did not renew his contract.
DEFENDENT’S CONTENTIONS: University officials assert that they are strong proponents of gender equity in athletics. They assert that they did not renew Burch’s contract because he violated various university rules and regulations, did not submit paper work on time, and was a difficult employee.
DAMAGES: Burch claimed lost wages and benefits. He claimed general damages for damage to his reputation, lost career opportunities, and emotional distress, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS: Magistrate Judge Kimberly J. Mueller conducted a settlement conference on November 20, 2006. District Judge William B. Shubb held a further conference on November 30, leading to the settlement.
RESULT: The case settled for $725,000 on November 30, 2006, the Thursday before the Tuesday trail date.