Appellate court affirms dismissal of former LSU tennis coach’s racial discrimination lawsuit against the university _lowres

Photo by David Humphreys Star dancer Tony Minnis

A Baton Rouge federal judge’s dismissal of a racial discrimination lawsuit that former longtime LSU women’s tennis coach Tony Minnis filed against the school after his 2012 firing has been affirmed by a federal appellate court.

Minnis’ attorney, Jill Craft, said Tuesday she needs to review the ruling and speak with Minnis before a decision is made on whether the case will be appealed further.

Minnis, who became the first black head coach of any sport in LSU’s history when the university hired him in 1991, claims in his suit that he was subjected to unwelcome race-based harassment and discrimination throughout his career at the school.

LSU stated it ended Minnis’ employment because of his failure to meet established goals, his losing record and morale issues.

In affirming Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson’s October dismissal of the suit, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted Monday that Minnis’ overall SEC win-loss record was 86-146.

Minnis’ teams competed in the NCAA tournament in 15 of his 21 years as coach, the panel said, but in the last 12 years, none advanced past the second round. The team had losing seasons in each of the three years preceding his firing and did not reach the NCAA tourney the year before his termination, the judges added.

In the 15 years during which LSU men’s tennis coach Jeff Brown, who is white, and Minnis were both coaching at the school, Brown’s overall record was 237-142 while Minnis’ was 191-174, the appeals court said. Brown’s SEC record during that span was 89-76; Minnis’ was 61-104, the court noted.

Minnis was earning $85,000 a year when he was let go by LSU. His replacement, Julia Sell, who is white, signed a four-year contract with a base salary of $110,000 per year.

LSU stated Sell received a higher salary because the school was competing with the University of South Carolina for Sell’s services, and due to the challenges associated with luring a coach to a team with a losing record and morale issues.

“Once LSU articulated non-discriminatory reasons for the pay disparity, the burden shifted to Minnis to rebut each of those reasons. He has not offered any evidence beyond his subjective beliefs to meet his burden,” 5th Circuit Judges Jacques Wiener Jr., Leslie Southwick and James Graves Jr. wrote.

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