STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State will review accusations of
discrimination by a gay rights advocacy group against women's
basketball coach Rene Portland.
"The allegations will be investigated according to university
policy and practices," school president Graham Spanier said in an
e-mail Wednesday. "Penn State has a nondiscrimination policy that
is fundamental to the principles of our university."
Spanier said he received a letter of complaint from the National
Center for Lesbian Rights regarding the case of Jennifer Harris,
who transferred from Penn State last spring after two years on the
According to the center, Portland had repeatedly questioned
Harris about her sexual orientation, threatened to kick her off the
team if she was a lesbian, and told other players not to associate
with players who Portland believed was gay.
Spanier's office said the president had not seen copies of the
complaints until after information was released to the media
Tuesday. He wrote in his e-mail that university attorneys will
follow up with the center to learn more.
Portland was not available for comment on Wednesday, the
athletic department said.
Portland is entering her 26th season as Penn State coach and has
a 578-204 record. She has led the school to five Big Ten
championships and made an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2000.
Harris transferred to James Madison.
Her attorney at the center, Karen Doering, said Wednesday that
while Harris is not a lesbian, "it's not a matter of whether she
is or is not. Rene Portland believed that Jen is a lesbian, and Jen
is not the first to be caught up in a net of discrimination based
on perceived sexual orientation."
Doering has also accused Portland of using anti-gay sentiments
while recruiting as a way to encourage or discourage players from
attending Penn State.
Harris, in a phone interview on Wednesday, recounted
conversations she said she had with Portland while being recruited
in high school and while at Penn State.
Midway through her freshman year in college, Harris said
Portland allegedly pulled her and another player aside after rumors
surfaced that the teammates were dating.
"I kind of laughed. I was so stunned. I didn't know why she was
asking and what it had to do with basketball," Harris said
Wednesday. "I didn't know what the problem was."
Harris said her main goal now is for Penn State "to do
something to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone again."
Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said the accusations were a
surprise because Harris had never raised the issue while at Penn
Portland must rebuild this season after losing eight players
from last year, including five seniors and four starters.