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Former SDSU hoops coach files lawsuit against school

Former SDSU basketball coach Beth Burns
Getty Images

The action has moved from the hardwood to the court room for one former San Diego State basketball coach.

According to a release from her attorney's office, former SDSU women's basketball coach Beth Burns has filed suit against the university, challenging her termination by the California State University (CSU) and SDSU in April 2013, this after 16 years as head coach of the Aztec women's basketball team.

Burns, who is the winningest coach in SDSU women's basketball history, sporting an overall 295-186 record that includes six conference championships, four tournament titles, seven NCAA tournament appearances and nine 20-win seasons, is being represented by the law firm of Chapin Fitzgerald LLP.

"San Diego State fired Coach Burns without good cause, and without any legitimate reason," stated Edward Chapin. "Although she provided exceptional leadership to the team and her staff on and off the court and was committed to excellence in every facet of its women's basketball program, she was forced to resign solely because of her unwavering insistence that the institution put women's basketball on an equal footing with the athletic resources and opportunities provided to men at the university."

According to the filing, SDSU fabricated a false explanation for Burns' termination that has been intentionally and devastatingly harmful to her career.

Burns' legal team claims that "The university made a feeble attempt to cover up its real reason for firing Beth Burns by trumping up a charge that she intentionally struck a subordinate (the reported incident involving an assistant coach took place during a contest last season versus Colorado State). An objective view of the incident relied on by the university as the purported cause for her firing shows nothing warranting the termination of her employment contract. Indeed, public reaction after seeing video of the incident has been to question what the real reason was for her dismissal, since the video shows nothing coming close to a firing offense. The video evidence produced by the university shows Burns' excited reactions to a defensive breakdown and a 'Hail Mary' shot - harmless contact with an assistant coach."

The complaint went on to note that Richel Thaler, SDSU's associate vice president, and Jim Sterk, SDSU's athletic director, threatened to terminate Burns and withhold her retirement benefits if she did not voluntarily resign.

"Faced with the loss of her hard-earned retirement benefits, she had little choice but to step down," added Chapin "As a result, her coaching career and her reputation have suffered irreparable damage. She is filing this action to ensure her side of the story is heard, and that SDSU is held accountable for its misconduct and the lasting harm that has resulted from it."

The complaint alleges the Board of Trustees of CSU and SDSU breached Burns' employment contract and that SDSU breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing as well as retaliated against her in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

The 2013-14 SDSU women's basketball team currently sits at 9-13 (plays at Utah State Feb. 19) under head coach Stacie Terry.

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