Friday, October 19, 2007
Former Louisiana-Lafayette coach wins suit over firing
LAFAYETTE, La. -- The first black head football coach at any
major Louisiana university has won a $2 million judgment in a
lawsuit claiming that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
fired him because of his race, not because his teams lost 80
percent of their games.
Jurors found that Jerry Baldwin's race wasn't the only reason he
lost the job, but was among the reasons. University officials broke
his contract and inflicted emotional distress through negligence,
according to the jury of six whites and six blacks.
Jurors took nearly 10 hours to work their way through a
complicated verdict form.
"There is no substitute for victory," said Baldwin's attorney,
G. Karl Bernard. He said Baldwin appreciates the chance to air his
ULL attorney Steve Oats said the evidence doesn't support the
verdict for Baldwin, who was coach from 1999-2001, but he and
university officials haven't decided their next step.
"It is clear Jerry Baldwin was not terminated because of his
race," Oats said. "Jerry Baldwin was terminated over his tenure.
The team had a record of 6-27 and attendance was terrible. The
program was not going in the right direction."
In closing arguments for the eight-day trial, Bernard said white
coaches before and after Baldwin got new equipment and had a
greater ability to market the football program via a coach's
television show and through the university's marketing department.
Baldwin worked with used equipment, the marketing director was
fired his second year on the job, and he never had a coach's show
to promote the football program, Bernard said.
Oats said the same officials now accused of racial
discrimination made the first black head coach at a major Louisiana
Jurors voted 10-2 to award Baldwin $500,000 for general damages,
including emotional distress; $600,000 for past lost wages;
$900,000 for future lost wages, and $2,676 for special damages.
The same administration officials now accused of racial
discrimination are the same people who gave Baldwin the job as the
first black head coach at a major Louisiana university, Oats
He also said there are no signs that Baldwin's ability to get
another job in coaching has been hampered by the firing, and
Baldwin's attorneys did not present any evidence that he suffered
extreme emotional distress.
Oats said Baldwin is now a minister at New Living Word
Ministries in Ruston.