After being fired last October, former University of Delaware head coach Bonnie Kennedy has filed a federal lawsuit against UD, claiming she was “terminated without cause” and was a victim of age and sexual-orientation discrimination.
Kenny was in the middle of her 15th season as the head women’s volleyball coach when she was placed on administrative leave on October 7th, alongside her wife and associate head coach Cindy Gregory. The couple was then fired on October 13th. The university never released the specifics for their dismissal.
Gregory has also filed a lawsuit, she too claiming discrimination and termination without cause Both suits name UD, athletic director Chrissi Rawak, and the recently retired human resources chief Thomas LaPenta.
Delaware will not be making any statements, spokeswoman Andrea Boyle said Friday.
“They [Delaware officials] said they had a complaint from the parent of one of the players and they were obligated to conduct an investigation, and that Bonnie and Cindy could avoid that by resigning,” said attorney David H. Williams from the firm that is representing the couple. “They said ‘No, there’s no truth to the allegations and we would welcome an investigation because we’d like to clear our name.’ Rather than conduct an investigation, the university terminated them.”
According to the suit, Kenny received phone calls from an “angry and belligerent” father who claimed his daughter was forced to lift weights when ill, expected to complete a drill required of no other player, and was refused ice for an injury. According to the filing, none of the accusations were true, but Kenny and Gregory were placed on leave four days later.
The complaint alleges that, “upon information and belief,” Kenny is the fourth gay female coach over the age of fifty that UD has “forced out.” Kenny, a 1984 graduate of the University of Tennessee and Gregory, a 1983 Missouri State alumni, are both in their mid-50s.
Kenny originally filed discrimination charges in February. In response, the university cited the recent losing seasons of the Blue Hens as cause for Kenny and Gregory’s terminations. According to the complaint, however, those were not given as reasons “when UD forced them to resign under duress.”
Delaware had a 253-199 record under Kenny—a winning record, but nothing stellar. The 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011 teams qualified for the NCAA tournament, but has struggled since, going 11-17, 15-17, and 12-17 in the most recent seasons.
On top of a lack of success on the court, of the fifteen of Kenny’s recruits from the last three seasons, six had left the program as of last fall. During her tenure, parents and players sometimes found her and Gregory’s methods unappealing, one former player going as far as saying it was a “bad environment that was rooted in manipulative and abusive techniques preying on players’ emotions.”
Last fall Delaware was 6-11 when Kenny was fired. After her and Gregory’s removal the team surged to success, winning 10 of their final 13 matches. Former TCU assistant coach Sara Matthews was hired as head coach in January and the Blue Hens will begin a new era this Friday against West Virginia.