RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–The head coach of VCU Women’s Volleyball says he’s losing his job at the end of the year because he’s gay.
James Finley says that despite finishing the 2012 season with the best winning percentage ever and the highest national ranking, he was informed on November 19 by the university’s new athletic director, Ed McLaughlin, that the department wanted the team to “go in a new direction.”
“I was really numb because it didn’t feel real,” Finley says.
Finley says he spent hours speculating as to why his contract wasn’t being renewed.
He says the reason became clearer after speaking with players on his team via a conference call.
VCU senior and volleyball team captain Kristen Boyd tells CBS 6 that McLaughlin informed the team that he was looking for someone who could better represent the university.
“That was the thing that just stabbed me,” Finley says. “My relationship with the university, with parents, faculty and donors is impeccable.”
Boyd says several of the players are angry and questioning McLaughlin’s decision.
Boyd says McLaughlin attended just one of their games and never expressed interest in getting to know Finley or the players on the team.
“We had a great record, 25 – 6. For him to say we want to go in a different direction, it was like ‘what direction do you want to go in?’”
Finley and his husband, John Sternlicht, say the university has always accepted and embraced their sexual orientation. The couple has three children and are staunch advocates for gay rights.
Finley spoke at an anti-discrimination rally in April 2010, challenging a legal opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
In response to Cuccinelli’s opinion, the governor issued a directive stating no employees of the state would be fired due to their sexual orientations.
VCU spokesperson Pam Lepley says while personnel actions are confidential, she says appropriate VCU employment practices and policies were followed in Finley’s case.
Ed McLaughlin released a statement saying the following:
“I came to VCU because of how the university embraces diversity and inclusive excellence and fosters a community where differences are valued and respected. It is unfortunate that Mr. Finley feels the decision not to renew his contract was based on anything other than previously stated concerns about the volleyball program. As I said earlier this month, the VCU volleyball program needs new leadership if it is to achieve athletic and academic success at an elite level nationally.”
Finley says he hopes VCU’s top administrative officials, including President Michael Rao, will reconsider McLaughlin’s decision. The university says it is reviewing the case.
“I love VCU, I love my team and I love what we’ve accomplished there,” Finley says.