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Jury awards ex-softball coach more than $1 million

November 13, 1997

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) _ Vickie Dugan’s softball teams didn’t win often at Oregon State University, but she was a big winner in her federal lawsuit accusing the school of gender discrimination and violation of her free speech rights.

An all-woman jury deliberated about 14 hours over two days before awarding Dugan $1.09 million from the university and $185,000 from former athletic director Dutch Baughman.

``We hit a grand slam,″ Dugan said.

The $1.28 million award stunned university officials and elated Dugan, who spoke to reporters as she left the courthouse.

``We wanted to make a difference and we wanted a message sent out that you don’t treat people that way because of their gender,″ she said. ``You don’t treat people that way because they stand up against inequities. That’s what it was all about.″

University spokesman Bob Bruce said state justice department lawyers would review the verdict before deciding whether to appeal.

``We are disappointed by the decision,″ Bruce said. ``The issue we believe was inadequate performance, not discrimination, and we intend to review the decision carefully with the Department of Justice before considering any other action.″

Dugan, who coached at Oregon State from 1988 to 1994, had contended that she was illegally paid less than her male counterparts and deprived of the resources she needed to succeed. She also alleged that her constitutional right to free speech was violated when she was punished for speaking out on gender equity issues.

The university argued in the 16-day trial that Dugan was paid fairly and that Baughman did everything he could to help her but that her performance was not up to the job and he eventually had to replace her. Dugan had a 64-201 overall record and a 9-112 Pac-10 record at Oregon State.

Three Pac-10 coaches testified at the trial that Dugan had done a respectable job, considering the program’s limited resources.

The jury ruled that the university should pay $750,000 in compensatory damages, $329,485 in economic damages and $13,498 for violation of equal pay laws. Baughman, who resigned earlier this year, was ordered to pay $125,000 in punitive damages and $60,000 in compensatory damages.

Assistant Attorney General John McCullough, who represented the university and Baughman, predicted the award would be reduced by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan, who presided over the case.

McCullough said it was the first time in hundreds of cases in which all the jurors were the same gender.

``It’s ironic, and in light of the verdict, perhaps unfortunate,″ he said.

Bruce said any damages awarded to Dugan would come out of the state’s risk management pool, not the university’s budget. He was unsure whether Baughman’s damages would be covered by insurance.

Dugan was hired in 1988 as a temporary half-time women’s softball coach for $9,750 a year, filling in for the full-time coach, who was on leave.

Her contract was renewed in 1989 after the former coach decided not to return, and her contract was renewed again in 1990, the year Baughman was hired.

Baughman’s attorney said in court that because of Dugan’s poor performance, the athletic director decided to launch a national search for a new coach in 1993. She filed a grievance that allowed her to keep her job and win a pay raise to $32,000 per year.

Dugan had an 0-24 record in 1994, her final season and, McCullough noted in court, was passed over for the job by two Oregon State search committees made up largely of women.

Kirk Walker, a male assistant coach from the successful UCLA program, was chosen to replace Dugan.

The American Association of University Women, based in Washington, D.C., has donated more than $15,000 toward Dugan’s legal expenses.

This fall, Dugan began teaching physical education and coaching softball at Porterville, Calif., College, her first job since leaving Oregon State.

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