Former women’s volleyball coaches say they were punished for raising concerns about unequal treatment of female athletes and coaches at two South Carolina universities.
The allegations are outlined in federal lawsuits filed this month in U.S. District Court.
In one case, former Charleston Southern University head coach Christine Mooberry was told she was being terminated during a February 2019 meeting. She was pregnant and had a 1-year-old child at the time, and her pregnancy and children were a topic of discussion at the meeting where she was let go, her lawsuit states.
The athletic director “told her that it was hard to have small children and coach at that level and that she should consider coaching high school instead,” Mooberry states in the lawsuit. She was then replaced by a male coach, according to the suit.
Charleston Southern said the school doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits and had not seen the suit, school spokeswoman Jenna Johnson said in an email.
The other case involves Jennifer Calloway, who was the longtime head coach at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg. She says she was sexually harassed by a school official and her contract wasn’t renewed.
The university “chose to fire a great coach because she advocated for gender equality on behalf of herself, her program, and her student athletes, in an effort to silence her and others who might bring concerns forward,” Calloway’s lawyer wrote in the complaint.
The university, a campus of the University of South Carolina System, didn’t respond to requests for comment this week.
In each case, lawyers say the women’s volleyball program received far fewer resources than men’s teams, and that volleyball was perceived as a lesser sport.
The average salary for head coaches at Charleston Southern is more than $43,000 higher for the men’s teams than women’s teams, the lawsuit states, citing figures from the U.S. Department of Education. Assistant coaches for the women’s teams make nearly $19,000 less than their colleagues on the men’s teams, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuits include examples that both women call unequal treatment, including training times.
Shortly after Mooberry was hired in 2013, she raised concerns about undesirable practice times for volleyball in a gym that was also used by the men’s basketball team. She was disappointed in the response she got from athletic officials.
“Coach Mooberry received the message loud and clear — volleyball could use the gym only when the men’s teams did not want to use it,” her lawsuit states.