EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 8, 2013

VCU stands by former Merrimack official

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — A former Merrimack College athletic official accused of a discriminatory termination in November was cleared by his current employer after an internal investigation.

A decision by Ed McLaughlin, the current athletic director at Virginia Commonwealth University who served as an associate athletic director at Merrimack from 1997 to 2000, to not renew the contract of James Finley, a gay women’s volleyball coach, in November was determined to be within the Virginia university’s employment practice and polices, according to the school. Finley’s complaint “was unfounded,” the report concluded.

“The Office of Institutional Equity’s exhaustive investigation confirmed that the employment decision was made in accordance with VCU policies and not as the result of any discriminatory action by our athletic director,” VCU president Michael Rao said in a statement. “I continue to have confidence in the process that produced the report and in Ed McLaughlin as VCU’s athletic director.”

McLaughlin said the ordeal has been “heartbreaking,” and maintained that those who know him understand his commitment to diversity.

“I am concerned about the impact the attention to this issue has had on a university that prides itself on its diversity – a university that holds diversity as a core value and that is considered a national leader in diversity,” McLaughlin said in a statement. “I want to thank Dr. Rao for his support. His personal commitment to making VCU a leader in diversity inspired me to come to VCU and Richmond and inspires me every day in leading our coaches and student-athletes.”

Finley said in November that he believed his record coaching at VCU was strong, and that McLaughlin’s desire to “go in a new direction” led him to believe the decision was based on his sexual orientation.

Finley, who lives in Richmond, Va., with his husband and sons, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The university declined to provide a copy of the investigation report.

On Nov. 19, Finley said McLaughlin called Finley into his office and told him he would not renew his contract. Finley had been the head coach of the women’s volleyball team at VCU for eight years, with a record of 151-116. In four of the first seven years, the team went to the Colonial Athletic Association conference championship four times, winning once and advancing to the NCAA tournament.

This year, VCU’s first year in the Atlantic 10 conference, the team went 25-6, but lost in the second round of the tournament to Xavier University.

After that meeting, Finley said he met with the university’s chief diversity officer and the compliance officer, and the university launched an investigation. That investigation was completed late last month.

In September, McLaughlin stripped Patricia Stauffer, the senior women’s administrator who also is gay, of her title without explanation, two university employees said.

McLaughlin, originally from Natick, left Merrimack College in 2000 for a job as athletic director at Niagara University in New York. In 2009, one of McLaughlin’s associate athletic directors at Niagara, Glenn Hofmann, landed a job as athletic director at Merrimack.

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