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Former VCU volleyball coach says he was fired because he’s gay

Nov 29, 2012, 10:11 AM EDT

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James Finley is the women’s volleyball coach at Virginia Commonwealth … or was, until he was unexpectedly fired recently. The facts: VCU had a 25-6 record this season, which was better than expected. The team also had a high grade point average and a perfect graduation rate, according to Finley. And no one has ever complained about the way he’s handled the team.

Oh, and Finley is also gay. NBC12:

“He tells the girls that they need someone that represents the University well,” said Finley. “And that really just stabbed me in the heart. Then I was like ‘wow, this guy just absolutely doesn’t want to have somebody gay on his staff.’”

Finley is referring to VCU’s new athletic director, Ed McLaughlin. The two had a meeting as soon as the team returned from the Atlantic 10 Conference championship.

“We sat down and he was just very short and simply said, ‘We want to go in a new direction. We’re not going to renew your contract. Thanks for your time.’” recalled Finley of the exchange.

Finley said the decision came as a shock, given the team’s performance.

“We were 25-6 this year,” said Finley. “We moved into a new conference. We were picked to finish sixth and we finished third. We made it to the semifinals of the A10 Championship. We had a great season. It was the highest winning percentage that we’ve had with the volleyball program at VCU.”

Can of worms, you are officially open for business. The university’s Division of Diversity and Equity has started an investigation

Finely says he wants his job back, in part because VCU has many gay and lesbian athletes, and he doesn’t “want to let them down.” He also claims that McLaughlin has actively avoided him at social functions, and also demoted another gay coach.

McLaughlin responded with this statement:

“A core value of Virginia Commonwealth University – and one that I personally share – is diversity. I came to VCU because of how the university embraces diversity and inclusive excellence and fosters a community where differences are valued and respected. It is unfortunate that Mr. Finley feels the decision not to renew his contract was based on anything other than previously stated concerns about the volleyball program. As I said earlier this month, the VCU volleyball program needs new leadership if it is to achieve athletic and academic success at an elite level nationally. I am confident about the path ahead and the upcoming search for a new head coach.”

- Ed McLaughlin
Director of Athletics

I have a feeling that Ed is going to have to get a little more specific over the reasons he fired Finley. “We want to go in a new direction” is mealy-mouthed admini-speak, and a coach who has put in as much time and effort as Finley at least deserves a tangible reason for his dismissal.

  1. gibbstastic - Nov 29, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    I think there is a difference in being fired and not renewing a contract. If your contract expires, the employer has the option to give you a new contract or not.

    Now with that being said, being fired because your gay and not having your contract renewed because your gay would be the same type of discrimination.

  2. myopinionisrighterthanyours - Nov 30, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    While it may or may not have been for the reasons the coach suspects, I have a hard time buying a boss firing an employee who exceeds any reasonable set of expectations, which happened here. The AD does owe an explanation better than “moving in a new direction.” The AD opened up this can of worms himself.