The case of a former UC Davis wrestling coach who sued the university for retaliation under Title IX has been settled out of court, just days before a trial was set to begin.
Michael Burch — who coached the Aggie wrestling team for six seasons — alleged that his dismissal in May 2001 was a result of his outspoken support for two women who had been cut from the team. The trial in the case had been scheduled to begin Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The case had attracted a great deal of outside attention, especially for the rare sight of a wrestling coach who supports Title IX. Many in the sport blame the gender equity law, which celebrates its 35th anniversary next year, for the steep decline in college wrestling during the last two decades.
The agreement has been submitted to the University of California Board of Regents for final approval. That is expected to happen next month. Officially, the trial date has been postponed to February, pending resolution of the case.
Burch had been seeking back pay as well as damages for emotional distress and injury to his reputation. He had said last summer he had hoped to be reinstated at UCD or somewhere else within the University of California system.
Burch is in his fifth year as an assistant wrestling coach at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
Both sides were tight-lipped about the settlement.
“The matter is under submission,” UC Davis spokesperson Julia Ann Easley said.
Burch’s Oakland-based attorney, Dan Siegel, read a similar statement.
UCD still faces another Title IX challenge, a class action suit brought by four female wrestlers, alleging they were denied the opportunity to compete because of their gender. Both lawsuits stemmed from the events of the same period, during the 2000-01 academic year.
In October 2000, Burch cut two women, Arezou Mansourian and Chris Ng, from the wrestling team. Burch later said he was carrying out the orders senior administrators in the athletic department, a contention that UCD disputes.
On April 24, 2001, Ng filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. That was the same day UCD officials said they decided not to renew Burch’s contract. Burch, who had been working for the athletic department on a series of one-year contracts, was a part-time coach and a lecturer in the religious studies department.
The coach was not informed of his firing until late May, after a month in which he very publicly supported the women and their case.
Burch sued, believing it was his outspoken support for women’s wrestling that led to his ouster, which came on the heels of a season in which the Aggies compiled a 10-7 dual meet record and sent four wrestlers to the NCAA tournament. Both were all-time bests for the program.
At the time, UCD athletic director Greg Warzecka, citing department policy, offered no explanation for why the school did not renew the coach’s contract.
According to court papers, UCD cited as reasons for the firing personality conflicts between Burch and senior administrators, budget deficits within the wrestling program and an unwillingness to cooperate with the compliance office during investigation of potential NCAA rule violations.
Burch’s case survived a summary judgment motion in June.
The American Association of University Women’s Legal Advocacy Fund had pledged more than $12,500 in support of Burch’s efforts
A trial date for the female wrestlers, case against UCD is expected to be set early next year.