Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ex-Minnesota Golf Director Harris:

Brenny defamed me

I have been defamed unfairly, I believe, by Ms. Brenny and her law firm for financial gain and as part of an effort to obtain publicity for themselves.

John Harris said Saturday he did not resign as University of Minnesota golf director because former assistant coach Kathryn Brenny is suing him for sexual discrimination but rather to refocus on his Champions Tour playing career and business interests.  

Brenny is suing him in Hennepin County for $200,000, with discrimination and nepotism at the heart of her complaint. The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 12,

"I leave my position as director of golf based upon my decision - and mine alone - that, at this point in time, it is better for the University of Minnesota, my family and the players in the program going forward that another head coach build upon some of the positive momentum which has been created," he said. 

Maturi recruited Harris for the job last summer over the objections of critics within the Gophers golf community who were concerned about his commitment to the program and whether the athletics director was more star struck by Harris' fundraising capabilities as a longtime professional golfer. 

Documents filed in the lawsuit reveal a bitter fight that threatens to further taint the Gophers' athletics department. 

Last year, a Hennepin County jury ordered the university to pay $1 million in damages to Jimmy Williams, who sued the athletics department claiming men's basketball coach Tubby Smith misrepresented an assistant coaching job offer. The university is appealing that verdict.

And now this tempest continues to roil the usually sedate realm of the golf program. 

Brenny, the 1998 Minnesota State High School champion from Little Falls, Minn., claims Harris was motivated to push her aside to allow his son-in-law Ernie Rose to perform her assistant coaching duties. She said Harris circumvented university hiring practices by creating a position for Rose, who had no college degree.

Brenny, 30, played at Wake Forest before winning the 2007 Minnesota State Amateur championship. She was an instructor in North Carolina in August when she received a phone call from Harris encouraging her to apply for the assistant head coach's job in Minnesota. She assumed she would teach and mentor the entire 10-woman roster.

Instead, according to her complaint, Brenny was allowed to work only with the freshmen, was prohibited from talking about golf with upperclassmen and spent the majority of her time running early-morning conditioning drills and doing paperwork. 

Harris and the university deny Brenny's allegations and have pushed back, accusing her in court records of suing Harris to exploit his status as a professional golfer who has earned more than $3 million on the Champions Tour since 2002.

Mark has said Harris learned Brenny was gay shortly after she was hired and immediately tried to freeze her out of the program. He excluded her from men's and women's team events and did not invite her to a dinner at Harris' house while Rose and men's coach John Carlson were allowed to attend.

The university maintains it had the right under Brenny's employment contract to change her job description. Brenny claims the university defrauded her by making her perform duties that conflicted with the job she was offered.

The university denies the sexual-discrimination claim and wants Judge William Howard to dismiss the lawsuit. 

Harris chose to hire his own attorney even though the university pledged to defend him in the lawsuit, according to a Jan. 26 letter by university President Robert Bruininks.

The letter included a caveat.

"The decision is made based upon the university's determination that, at all times and in all matters relevant to the complaint, you were acting within the course and scope of your university employment," Bruininks wrote Harris.

"Should at any time our understanding of the facts related to this case change, the university reserves the right to reconsider and alter our determination regarding your coverage under this policy."


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