JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The University of North Florida has reached a settlement with former women's basketball coach Mary Tappmeyer to head off a lawsuit over allegations of discrimination by athletic director Lee Moon.
UNF President John Delaney challenged those allegations in a statement Friday announcing the settlement, saying an internal investigation conducted by the university's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD) concluded Tappmeyer's claims of Title IX infractions "lacked merit."
The university's board of trustees made a "business decision" to approve the settlement (which is reportedly in the neighborhood of $1.25 million) to avoid waging a costly legal battle with Tappmeyer, whose contract wasn't renewed last year after 11 losing seasons, according to Delaney.
"She had 11 straight losing seasons, which normally gets you fired and I think wants to blame someone else," Delaney told First Coast News. "But we wish her well."
The university looked into Tappmeyer's claims multiple times, Delaney said, and determined they were "unfounded."
"If we did find that they were true," he said, "we would have a new athletic director because we would not tolerate it if those things were true."
The deal puts an end to a behind-the-scenes feud between the university and Tappmeyer that documents suggest started as her contract ran out when she raised questions about the validity of her termination -- and whether it was retaliatory.
But Tappmeyer's attorney, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, told First Coast News Tappmeyer's record reflects how she was being treated. Hogshead-Makar said Tappmeyer's leadership was undermined repeatedly to her players and recruits.
"You don't just come up with $1.25 million without there being some serious problems within the university," she said.
Tappmeyer went to the university's EOD, which investigates complaints of discrimination, April 16 with allegations of Title IX infractions by Moon including sexual discrimination, racism and homophobia -- and suggested his decision not to renew her contract also breached the law.
Specifically, in claims documented by the EOD, she accused the athletic director of the following:
- He was homophobic -- once referring to a top UNF administrator a "f_g" -- and discouraged the recruitment of gay/lesbian student athletes
- He was racist, saying "nobody wants to watch an all-Black team play," calling a student-athlete a "N" lover, and emphasized recruitment in the Midwest
- He was sexist and biased against female coaches, replacing them with male coaches and seeking to have pregnant assistant coaches fired
- Women's and men's basketball facilities were different
- Budgets, scholarships and recruitment were different based on gender
A report produced by the university in August, based heavily on testimony provided by Moon and other members of the athletic department, found no pattern or evidence of discrimination.
The report also pointed out that in Tappmeyer's 2012 review, Moon said she wouldn't be kept on board if she couldn't produce a winning record in the conference moving forward. The following season, the team had a 6-10 record in conference play.
"We know that UNF talked to a lot of other coaches who were in 100 percent support of everything that Mary said," said Hogshead-Makar. "And they were not included in the report."