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Fired Women’s Basketball Coach Files $105 Million Suit Against Howard University

Fired Women’s Basketball Coach Files $105 Million Suit Against Howard University
Sanya Tyler’s lawyer claims the firing was retaliation for an earlier suit she won against the school

Former Howard University women’s basketball coach Sanya Tyler has sued the university and three officials for $105 million in damages after being fired last month. Her attorney alleges the school breached her contract with the firing, and she is seeking $30 million in compensatory damages and $75 million in punitive damages. According to the lawsuit, the university has told her she faces arrest for unlawful entry and trespassing if she enters any university property.
Howard officials announced Sept. 14 that Tyler had been dismissed for unspecified violations of NCAA rules and university policies. Robert Bell, Tyler’s attorney, says she denies any violations and adds that even if she were found guilty of any such violations, the university would remain obligated to provide her with another position according to her contract.
The defendants specified in the suit are school President H. Patrick Swygert; Raymond W. Archer III, interim vice president for student affairs who oversees intercollegiate athletics; and A.B. Williamson, athletic compliance officer. University officials had no comment on the lawsuit.
The breach of contract claim is based on a clause in Tyler’s contract that states if Howard fires her as women’s basketball coach or does not renew her contract when it expires in 2002, the university must continue to employ her in some capacity. The clause cited in the lawsuit says her salary in a new position would revert to the base pay of $70,000 annually in her previous contract, plus cost-of-living raises since 1998. Tyler currently makes $90,000.
But the clause does not address instances of rule-breaking. Bell, who characterized the firing as retaliation against an earlier lawsuit Tyler won against the university, declined to release a copy of Tyler’s contract or her termination letter. NCAA policies require coaches’ contracts to include moral-conduct clauses, which might provide a university grounds to void the contract of a coach responsible for NCAA violations.
Last month’s filing marks the third time Tyler has brought action against the university since she became the first full-time women’s basketball coach for the Bison in 1980 — each also alleging sex discrimination and retaliation.  In 1993, a D.C. Superior Court jury awarded her $2.4 million in a sex discrimination, retaliation and defamation lawsuit filed against the university. The award was later reduced to $250,000. 

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