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Duke Files Appeal on $2M Award

June 5, 2001

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Attorneys for Duke University filed an appeal Monday asking that a $2 million award given to a former female placekicker be reduced.

Heather Sue Mercer claimed that former Duke football coach Fred Goldsmith let her join the team in 1995, then treated her differently than the male players before informing her she would not be allowed to remain on the team.

Mercer said the school discriminated against her by denying her proper equipment, prohibiting her from dressing and standing on the sidelines for games and cutting her from the team in the spring of 1996. Mercer also said Goldsmith made sexist comments to her, such as asking why she was interested in football instead of beauty pageants.

She won $1 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages last year.

On Monday, attorneys for Duke filed an appeal with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., contesting the amount of punitive damages awarded, but not the verdict.

John Simpson, Duke’s attorney, argued that the court should reverse the award because Congress never intended for punitive damages in Title IX cases.

``Title IX is designed to ensure that federal funding is not used for purposes of discrimination and to protect victims of discrimination; it is not designed in any sense to punish violators of Title IX,″ the brief says.

Mercer’s attorneys could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Under Title IX, schools are not required to allow women to try out for contact sports _ however, once Duke put Mercer on the team, the school was responsible for treating her equally, according to a previous federal appeals court decision in this case.

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