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SDSU Settles with Women's Basketball Coach for $4M

Andy Berg

San Diego State University has reached a legal settlement with former women’s basketball coach Beth Burns.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, SDSU has agreed to pay Burns and her attorneys $4 million. The agreement comes after the school terminated Burns in April 2013 with four years and $880,000 left on her contract. At the time, SDSU claimed it had cause for her termination and owed her nothing.

SDSU is also stuck with paying $1 million in fees to an outside law firm, as well as $250,000 to assistant coach Adam Barrett, who claimed he was elbowed by Burns on the bench during a game.

The total bill will be paid by the California State University system. 

Ed Chapin, Burns’ lawyer, said that there’s a lesson to be learned from the case. “Make sure you have your ducks in line and don’t create a pretext for firing someone, because you can get caught and when you do the consequences can be severe, as they were here.” 

The final settlement was much larger than the initial demand from Burns after her firing. The Union-Tribune reports that Burns had originally said she wanted the $880,000 that remained on her contract, as well as $25,000 in attorney’s fees. SDSU countered with $165,000 plus $15,000 in attorney’s fees. Burns then filed a civil suit in San Diego Superior Court in 2014, claiming wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation for her complaints about potential Title IX violations.

CSU general counsel Catherin Barrad said in a statement, “This is a situation where, although we are very confident of our chances on appeal, we decided to reach a settlement and move on. It’s a compromise. It’s something where clearly coach Burns is ready to put this behind her and we’re ready to move forward as well.” 

Burns is the winningest women’s basketball coach in SDSU history. The Aztecs had just won 27 games, a school record, when Burns was summoned for what she thought was an annual review. At that meeting, athletic director Jim Sterk gave her three options: resign, retire or be terminated.

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