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Burns’ ‘wrongful termination’ lawsuit against SDSU headed to trial

After three years of being fired, former head coach at San Diego State University, Beth Burns will be headed to trial.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Arizona at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, Beth Burns – former women’s basketball head coach at San Diego State – will head to court for trial on Monday in San Diego Superior Court. The case is to decide if SDSU wrongfully terminated Burns following the Aztecs winning a school-record 27 games, as well as after one year of a five-year contract extension where she was paid $220,000 prior to bonuses.

The trial is expected to last 12 days.

In the case, Burns is claiming breach of contract, gender discrimination and retaliation for complaining about Title IX compliance. The Union-Tribune reported Burns is seeking $3 million in past and future damages and punitive damages.

Since Burns’ departure, the university had not spoken on the subsequential lawsuit – until now. San Diego State University chief communications officer Greg Block, broke the silence stating the following:

“It’s unfortunate that it has to get to this point, and things couldn’t be settled amicably. The byproduct of any trial like this is, I’m sure there’s going to be stuff that nobody wants to see or read about. But it’s just a reality of being a big place like this. There are people who leave under a variety of circumstances all the time.

“Sometimes they sue us, and it usually gets settled and handled out of court, and we don’t go to trial. I can’t remember the last time a case like this went to trial. It’s just a unique situation.”

When Burns was fired, it was reported she was dismissed based on video evidence of hitting her first-year assistant Adam Barrett two times during a home game in 2013 against Colorado State. The university denied an open records request, however, the Union-Tribune received a copy from Colorado State.

The Union-Tribune reported Burns can be seen hitting a clipboard/notepad on the lap of Barret during the game, as well as another time during the game swinging her right elbow which connected with Barrett’s shoulder. He received a settlement agreement with the university which paid him $250,000 and was cited as a “dispute (that) has arisen with respect to the non-renewal.” Again open records were recorded denied from SDSU.

In a trial brief, it was stated that even though Burns’ teams were successful on the court, that success did not come without issues. The document mentioned other reasons for her termination including “Ms. Burns had a troubling pattern and history of mistreating, disrespecting, and publicly embarrassing her staff, coworkers and subordinates,” per reported by the Union-Tribune.

Burns’ attorneys had written down in their trial brief that the University “terminated Coach Burns because she continued to complain about gender inequity that exposed potential violations of Title IX in the SDSU athletics department.”

The Union-Tribune reported a part of Burns’ discrimination claim is Tom Craft and Chuck Long were football coaches at SDSU and when they were dismissed from their duties at the university, they were paid the remaining amount of money on their contract whereas she was not.

Block believes the case is going to trial because the university has one view of the case while Burns and her attorneys feel it is something else.

“Clearly, they think the case is about one thing, and we think it’s about something completely different,” Block said. “We don’t believe this case is about gender equity or Title IX or any of that … We believe this is really just a case about a pattern of inappropriate conduct of a coach, and her unwillingness to take responsibility for her conduct.

“That’s why it got to this point. There’s just a difference of opinion of what it’s about.”

Before being released from her duties at San Diego State University, Burns had accumulated a career record of 295-186 in 16 years at SDSU, taking the team to the NCAA seven times and the Sweet 16 once back in 2010.

For the past two seasons, Burns has been an associate head coach at USC.

More details to come as the trial begins