Ex-Fresno State coach accepts reduced discrimination award

FRESNO, Calif. -- A former women's basketball coach at Fresno State said Wednesday she would accept a $6.62 million award so she could put an end to her high-profile gender discrimination case against the school.

A jury originally awarded Stacy Johnson-Klein a $19.1 million judgment, but a judge last week ordered a new trial unless she accepted the smaller amount.

"The dollar figure was never what it was about," Johnson-Klein said at a news conference at her lawyer's Fresno office. "I want this award, this jury verdict to be a small part of showing what women can do to speak up."

She said finalizing her legal ordeal was the best decision for her family.

She also plans to write a book about her experience.

An attorney for California State University, Fresno said the school could appeal, but added that administrators "look forward to a resolution."

Johnson-Klein sued the university three years ago, saying her bosses sexually harassed her and retaliated against her because she raised her voice to support equality for her young players. She's the third woman in the school's athletics department to sue for discrimination under Title IX.

The university said the coach was fired because she was abusive to her players, violated NCAA rules and took Vicodin pills she received from a student.

In December, a jury sided with Johnson-Klein and awarded her the historic $19.1 million judgment.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald Black said Friday he believed Johnson-Klein's judgment -- even when reduced -- was the largest such payout in California history.

Meanwhile, Fresno State is appealing a $4.52 million judgment from a gender discrimination suit filed by former volleyball coach Lindy Vivas. Last year the school agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle a third discrimination lawsuit filed by former athletic administrator Diane Milutinovich.

"I understand that Ms. Johnson-Klein wants to move forward with her life and put things behind her," said university counsel Dawn Theodora. "The CSU system wants to do the same thing."