Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by Golf Coach Gary Grandison Against Alabama State University
Image via Alabama State
For over 10 years, Gary Grandison was the head women's golf coach at Alabama State University. There, he made an immense impact on the program, turning the Hornets into a Southwestern Athletic Conference powerhouse. Grandison's teams won 7 SWAC Championships and he was named the SWAC women's golf coach of the year 5 times.
In 2019, the University decided not to renew his contract, forcing Grandison to move on. In July of 2020, he was hired as the head men's and women's golf coach at Texas Southern University, staying in the conference. While Texas Southern presented an exciting, new opportunity, Grandison believes that there was foul play involved in his Alabama State exit and overall treatment.
He sued Alabama State under Title IX, alleging that ASU decided not to renew his contract "on the basis of sex." Title IX provides that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Grandison also claimed that he was wrongfully paid less than coaches of men's sports teams at ASU. He had signed a one-year contract extension with ASU in 2018. His salary was $55,000, and the contract specified that $21,489 would be paid from the women's golf budget and $33,511 would be paid from the men's golf budget (which he was also the head coach of).
Grandison also had performance-tied bonuses included in his contract. Specifically, $3,500 for winning the SWAC championship; $5,000 for being crowned Black College national champions; and $3,000 for exceeding the team's multi-year academic progress rate (APR) of 950. Plaintiff testifies that he won the SWAC championship in 2018 but that he did not receive a $3,500 bonus.
Grandison also incorporated perceived inequities between the women's golf team and other men's sports teams at ASU into his Title IX claims. He alleges his operating budget for the women's golf program dwindled in two years from $36,000 annually to $13,000 annually. He says he had to spend $7,000 of his own money to cover approved expenses for travel and competitions for the women's golf program. Finally, among other University wrongs, Grandison said, "to this day I still have not received the . . . 2018-2019 championship rings as a women's golf coach."
In response, the University argued that allegations of misconduct by the plaintiff, not his sex, largely motivated its decision to not renew his contract. According to the decision, "[p]rior to the expiration of the 2018 Contract, the athletic director recommended to ASU President Quinton Ross that [Grandison] be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct reported by female student athletes and their parents. In one instance, it was reported that Plaintiff had made inappropriate comments to a player on the women's golf team about her lifestyle and that he had refused that player's request to wear pants instead of a skort during competitions. Another reported incident concerned Plaintiff's allegedly inappropriate comments concerning a female golf player's sexual relationship with her boyfriend. There also were complaints—'more than a few'—from parents against Plaintiff." Grandison argued that the complaints were overblown and false.
In his deposition, Deputy Athletic Director Jones articulated ASU's reasons for nonrenewing Plaintiff's contract as "(1) his contract was expiring on its own terms; (2) an investigation revealed "some merit" as to the players' and parents' complaints of misconduct by Plaintiff; and (3) Plaintiff disobeyed a directive not to return to practice after he was accused of having an altercation with a student athlete on the golf course." The court found these reasons to be legitimate and nondiscriminatory.
Grandison's claims of disparate pay were not given merit by the court because the former ASU head coach failed to draw a comparison between his duties and the duties of assistant coaches or between his duties and the duties of the head coaches for football, men's basketball, and baseball. "Making assumptions about similarities of job duties is improper."
With that, the Alabama Middle District Court held that Grandison failed to demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination or show that ASU's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its employment decisions were pretext for discrimination. Therefore, ASU's motion for summary judgment was granted, throwing out Grandison's claims.
Jason Morrin is a third-year law student at Hofstra Law School in New York. He is the President of Hofstra’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society. Additionally, he is a Law Clerk at Geragos & Geragos. He can be found on Twitter @Jason_Morrin.