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Allegations at Minnesota Shouldn’t Deter Advances of Women in Athletics

After reading the sexual harassment allegations that forced Norwood Teague to resign as the athletic director at the University of Minnesota and the report of more allegations from a newspaper reporter who covers the Gophers’ men’s basketball team, I told a colleague in passing that Teague likely has acted this way for years. That may have been unfair, but the feeling was this type of behavior didn’t come out of the blue.

Although a new report does not have more lurid and lewd examples that surfaced in text messages from Teague, it does include more allegations of discrimination against women. On Monday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the University of Minnesota and Virginia Commonwealth University, where Teague served as athletic director for six years before he was hired by Minnesota in April 2012, paid a combined $300,000 in settlements relating to two complaints from former co-workers claiming gender discrimination.

Former VCU women’s basketball coach Beth Cunningham filed one of the complaints in 2012, according to records obtained by the Star Tribune. The reason for the complaint, which was settled in July 2012 for $125,000, was not disclosed.

Regina Sullivan, a senior associate athletic director for the University of Minnesota who was fired in October 2012, filed a federal complaint against the university in March 2013. Sullivan said was fired because she questioned Teague’s commitment to Title IX, the law that bans sex discrimination in any federally funded school. Sullivan said Teague “expected a woman in my position to take a passive role and defer to men’s opinions” on issues pertaining to Title IX, the newspaper reported. The university settled with Sullivan in April 2014 for $175,000.

Related: Reporter Claims Ousted Minnesota AD Sexually Harassed Her

The U.S. Department of Education is currently investigation the University of Minnesota for its compliance with Title IX. Stephanie Schleuder, the former University of Minnesota women’s volleyball coach, sent a letter to Minnesota President Eric Kaler and the university’s board of regents demanding an apology from Teague after he told the Star Tribune the school could not add more men’s sports because of Title IX. Teague’s remarks showed “absolutely no consideration or respect for the struggles of women to receive equitable athletic opportunities,” Schleuder said in her letter, the newspaper reported.

“(Teague) is very dismissive of women. He sees them as his plaything as opposed to someone he is supposed to be representing,” Schleuder told the Star Tribune. Schleuder, who won 702 matches in her 34-year career, including stints at Minnesota and Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn., is in the Minnesota Volleyball Hall of Fame and will be inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in December.

I haven’t read all the comments that followed the new Star Tribune story or replies to the story in social media, but I’ve gotten the sense this week that people feel that college athletics still have a “good ol’ boys” or an “old boys network” stigma attached to them, an arena where men dominate and women are not seen as equals. I can’t say I disagree that this perception exists. However, we have witnessed several breakthroughs for women in athletics this summer, particularly in the professional ranks, that offset this perception.

Becky Hammon, the first female assistant coach in the NBA, led the San Antonio Spurs’ summer league team to the Las Vegas Summer League title. Nancy Lieberman, a Hall of Fame basketball player, became the second female NBA assistant after the Sacramento Kings hired her last month. The Arizona Cardinals have brought in Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern for their training camp.

Then there’s Serena Williams, who is dominating tennis this year after completing the “Serena Slam” at Wimbledon. Williams is shooting for the traditional Grand Slam in a couple of weeks at the U.S. Open in New York.

Speaking of dominance, Ronda Rousey has become a major star this year with her pummeling UFC bouts. Her last four victories lasted a combined 2 minutes, 10 seconds. Several fans stayed up well past midnight and paid $60 on pay-per-view earlier this month to watch her knock out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds. According to estimates, the fight generated more than one million pay-per-view buys.

Last but not least in the least, there's the U.S. women’s national soccer team, which brought together an entire nation this summer on its way to a triumphant World Cup title. It wasn’t just young soccer hopefuls who were watching every move Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach and Co. made—men and women packed local bars or held World Cup parties to cheer on the team. The 5-2 win over Japan in the World Cup final generated the highest metered market rating ever for a soccer game in the U.S. on a single network, according to FOX Sports.

The allegations against Teague are disturbing, no doubt, and have no place in the workplace or anywhere, for that matter. Judging by the strong reactions from this story against him and seeing some of the advances of women in athletics this year, dinosaurs like Norwood Teague are becoming extinct.

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