Fired Gay VCU Volleyball Coach Trying To Move Forward

December 19, 2012 / Volleyball
USA Today, Jeffrey Martin

James Finley says he has options. He won’t reveal names out of fairness to each administration’s decision-making process, but four universities, including two from major conferences, have expressed interest in him being their women’s volleyball coach. He’s flattered, aware he probably won’t be out of work long after his contract as Virginia Commonwealth University’s coach expires Dec. 31.

But he’d rather keep his old job.

He says this despite being fired Nov. 19, a dismissal that he alleges was because he is gay, according a complaint filed with the university’s office for institutional equity. University spokesperson Pamela Lepley confirmed Wednesday an investigation is underway, and that the results will be distributed only to Finley and VCU president Michael Rao.

Finley said if he’s not reinstated, litigation is possible.

In 2012 Finley, 52, had the best season of his eight-year run in Richmond, leading the Rams to a 25-6 record, best in the program’s history. Overall, Finley is 151-116.

He also has a husband, which Finley says was never an issue on campus until new athletic director Ed McLaughlin arrived in August.

“He never came and introduced himself to me or my staff or my team,” Finley told USA Today Sports on Wednesday. “He never asked for a meeting with me. He never talked to me about my program. We never had a conversation outside, in the hallway, at a game, anywhere. The only communication I had with him, period, was initiated by me.

“If he hired someone new, I’d send him an e-mail and say, ’Hey, congrats.’ He’d send something back. … How do you evaluate someone when you don’t have any interaction with someone?”

McLaughlin did not respond Wednesday to multiple interview requests. In a statement following Finley’s dismissal, McLaughlin said, “Our program needs a different direction and different leadership to attain our goals of achieving at an elite level nationally.”

Finley said he was doing just that.

“I felt that because of my character and who I am that I couldn’t just walk away from this,” he said. “For anybody, for any reason, if you’re not evaluated on your job performance, it’s like, ’Geez, I can’t let this go.’

“But we had a long discussion — if I do this, is it going to keep me from being hired? People were already saying, ’Nobody gets fired when they have 25 wins — something must be wrong.’ I thought it’d be more damaging if I didn’t stand up. At least now, people know why. And if someone doesn’t want to hire me because I’m an openly gay man and I’m married, I probably don’t want to be there, anyway.”

Leave a Reply