A former University of Indianapolis coach will now take the reins of the VCU women’s volleyball team.
Update #4 — February 11, 2013; 3:33 PM
Today, the VCU Athletic Department announced that Jody Rogers will be the University’s women’s volleyball coach, replacing James Finley (see below).
Rogers has spent the last 16 years coaching at Division II University of Indianapolis. Last year, she led the Greyhounds to the Final Four and the program’s third 30-plus win season in the past six years.
“Jody is a proven winner who brings a lot of energy to the VCU Athletics family,” said Ed McLaughlin, VCU’s Athletic Director. “She is a teacher of the game who will promote hard work, discipline and strong communication as keys to sustainable, elite-level success, both athletically and academically.”
Rogers’s 16-year record at Indianapolis is 406-180 (.693), which ranks in the top-30 among Division II coaches for both total wins and winning percentage. Last year, Rogers was named the 2012 CaptainU National Coach of the Year. In 2009, she was the AVCA National Coach of the Year.
“I would like to thank VCU for giving me such a great opportunity to lead a program that has so much potential for success,” Rogers said. “I really look forward to being challenged both personally and professionally, and I’m excited to get into the gym with our student-athletes and get back to the winning ways.”
“The program has so much potential and that’s the main reason why I came to VCU. My coaching philosophy is that we go fast and we have athletic players that can do great things on the court and in the classroom. There’s a solid foundation in place, but now we look to operate at an even higher level,” Rogers said.
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Update #3 – January 24, 2013; 7:25 AM
Former VCU women’s volleyball coach, James Finley, who last year accused the university’s athletic director of harboring anti-gay sentiments (see below), will be the new head coach for Seattle University’s women’s volleyball team.
“I am very excited to receive the opportunity to move the Seattle U program forward as it looks to advance within Division I and the Western Athletic Conference,” Finley said in a statement. “It was enjoyable to meet with the people within the Redhawks athletics department involved in the hiring process, and I look forward to working with everyone at Seattle U.”
Finley had been with VCU since 2005, accumulating a 151-116 (.566) record, including last year’s 25-6 season that ended in an Atlantic 10 conference tournament appearance.
VCU has yet to fill the head coach vacancy for its women’s volleyball team.
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Update #2 – December 20, 2012; 6:30 PM
A report by VCU’s Office of Institutional Equity has concluded the unrenewed contract of women’s volleyball coach, James Finley, did not violate VCU’s employment practices and policies. Finley has recently accused VCU Athletic Director, Ed McLaughlin, of having anti-gay sentiments, which Finley alleges influenced McLaughlin’s decision to not renew Finley’s contract after it expires December 31st, 2012 (see posts below).
In a statement sent out by email, VCU President Michael Rao said, “The Office of Institutional Equity’s exhaustive investigation confirmed that the employment decision was made in accordance with VCU policies and not as the result of any discriminatory action by our athletic director.”
The investigation comprised interviews with 16 unknown individuals and a review of applicable personnel records. The investigation concluded that any discrimination based on sexual orientation was unfounded. Details of the report, however, will remain confidential without the complainant’s consent (presumably that of Finley’s) due to the report’s personnel information, per VCU policy.
Wanda Mitchell, Vice President of the VCU Division of Diversity and Equity, said, “This case has served as an opportunity to open new discussion and explore exemplary practices in how we demonstrate our commitment to diversity at VCU.” She added that the case will inspire additional ways to strengthen the University’s commitment to diversity. “We will be engaging the university community to consider new ways of moving forward to ensure that VCU continues to be a national leader in promoting access, equity, diversity and excellence as a public urban research university.”
In the near future, Mitchell is expected to announce several initiatives meant to encourage diversity efforts at VCU. President Rao echoed VCU’s goal of remaining one of the nation’s most diverse universities.
“We work vigorously across the university to ensure that VCU is an inclusive and fair community, embracing all people of all backgrounds,” Rao said. “I have a personal, passionate commitment to advancing diversity in all of its forms and expect the same of my senior leadership team.”
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Update #1 – November 30, 2012; 3:25 PM
This afternoon, VCU President Michael Rao released a statement addressing the accusations of Coach James Finley that his contract was not renewed because the coach is openly gay (see story below).
To the VCU and VCU Health System Communities:
In the past several days, I have heard from many members of the VCU
community who support our commitment to diversity in its many
dimensions. Now, as always, we assert and will firmly and clearly
reassert that our commitment is central, enduring and unequivocal. My
leadership team and I are profoundly committed to diversity and work
to cultivate an academic and work environment that is safe and
supportive. We will accept nothing less.
VCU will always proudly champion diversity as a core value. We are a
community that seeks to embrace and learn from one another, not simply
tolerate one another. We will also remember that an essential part of
this shared commitment and understanding is treating all people fairly
and respectfully — without presumptions of their intent, beliefs or
actions. This can be especially difficult—but most important to
do—when an issue confronts us.
In this particular instance, the facts related to the non-renewal of
Coach Finley’s contract are under investigation by the Office of
Institutional Equity to determine if there was bias or improper motive
in the employment decision. It is incumbent upon all of us to not rush
to judgment and allow the investigation to proceed in a way that is
fair to all.
When we face a challenge within our community, we have the opportunity
for dialogue and reflection and a chance to further advance our core
values. We will always be a welcoming university that celebrates and
understands its diversity as a rich asset, and we will never tolerate
any act of prejudice or discrimination in any corner of VCU. We will
continue to work and engage with you to support our shared commitments
to equity, fairness and diversity.
President, VCU and the VCU Health System
Original – November 28, 2012
VCU’s Women’s Volleyball coach will not return after leading the team to a winning season, stirring accusations of discrimination against the openly gay coach.
VCU coach James Finley was told his contract would not be renewed by VCU Athletic Director, Ed McLaughlin, last week after Finley returned from a semifinal loss against Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. The Rams finished the season 25-6, the best record in Finley’s eight years as coach.
In a press release announcing the decision last week, McLaughlin said “Our program needs a different direction and different leadership to attain our goals of achieving at an elite level nationally.” The move surprised Finley.
“I was in shock because I was really caught off guard,” Finley said by phone yesterday, recounting his brief meeting with McLaughlin in which the coach learned both he and his staff would not return. “He didn’t offer any explanation whatsoever.”
Finley claims that the first meeting he had with McLaughlin was when Finley was told he would not return to coach next season. “It was the first time he asked to meet with me…which was odd,” Finley said.
Finley’s players were also surprised that their coach would not return next year. A short time after McLaughlin met with Finley, the AD addressed several players of the volleyball team to inform them of the decision.
“It really caught me off guard,” said Kristin Boyd, four-year veteran of the volleyball team, each year under Finley. “I was shocked…we had a really good season.” According to Boyd, McLaughlin told the team he wanted to “find someone who better represents” the University. “You guys deserve better,” McLaughlin told the team.
Boyd and others were taken aback. “He doesn’t know us. How does he know we deserve better?”
When players began discussing the matter, some thought the decision might be based on APR (academic progress rate1), or other metrics beyond wins and losses. But with a winning record, and what Finley said were good grades among his players, many on the team questioned if Finley’s contract was not renewed “because Coach was gay.”
McLaughlin denies that is the case:
“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.
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Despite last year’s success, Finley’s record across his eight seasons as coach was 151-116 (56.5%), with an average national rank of 124 (out of 321). In 2011, the team, then members of the CAA, went 17-17 which would have placed them 5th among members of the A-10. Finley’s career at VCU has been average, but the decision to sever ties with Finley on the heels of his most successful season is not the only thing raising eyebrows.
In October, Patricia Stauffer, a 30-year employee of VCU Athletics, was demoted from Senior Women’s Administrator to Senior Associate AD for Sports Administration. While the reasons for her reassignment are unknown, some believe that Stauffer being an open lesbian influenced the decision. As both Finley and Stauffer are still VCU employees, VCU is bound by an in-house confidentiality agreement that prevents the University from discussing its employees publicly.
Pamela Lepley, VCU Executive Director for the Division of University Relations, said “Anyone who works here holds diversity among our highest values…Ed McLaughlin is no different.”
Affirming that VCU would not discuss its employees publicly, Lepley said “VCU’s policies and procedures were compiled with.”
Attorney and husband to Coach Finley, John Sternlicht, who brought attention to his concerns via a Facebook post on Monday, affirmed that “VCU is one of the most diverse schools in the state.” But Sternlicht believes that Finley’s departure, along with Stauffer’s reassignment, “was motivated by anti-gay discrimination.”
While such a claim is hard to prove, the attorney said that one must “look at the totality of the person’s actions” in a matter like this. He said the only two openly gay people within the VCU Athletics Department have been either fired or reassigned (again, the contracts among Finley’s staff were also not renewed).
Sternlicht said that Dr. Wanda Mitchell, VP of VCU’s recently created Division for Diversity and Equity, has launched an investigation into the matter. It’s unknown when findings will be made public, if at all.
Sternlicht said that he and Finley have faith that VCU “…will do the right thing” and re-instate Finley. If that doesn’t happen, both Sternlicht and Finley may pursue legal recourse.
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Coach Finley’s career stats
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- In 2011 the NCAA set new standards for the Academic Progress Rate. Starting in 2013, teams must maintain a four-year APR average of 930 or face postseason bans. VCU’s four-year average from 2008-2011 is 930.5. ↩