Female student-athletes file lawsuit against Oklahoma university for alleged discrimination

EDMOND, Okla. — A lawsuit filed Tuesday against the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) alleges the university’s female student-athletes do not receive the same treatment and benefits as its male student-athletes.

The 38-page lawsuit, filed by three female track and field athletes, alleges female student-athletes at UCO are discriminated against based on their sex and not given access to the same level of facilities, equipment, treatment and benefits the male student-athletes are afforded.

The lawsuit also alleges the school, located in Edmond, retaliated when the plaintiffs spoke up about the mistreatment by firing the head track and field and cross country coach.

According to the lawsuit, the university failed to provide UCO’s female student-athletes with equal treatment and benefits, specifically:

  • The selection of sports and levels of competition do not accommodate the interest and abilities of female student-athletes
  • They are provided inferior equipment and supplies, as compared to male student-athletes
  • They are not treated as well as male student-athletes in the scheduling of games and practice times
  • They are provided with inferior means of travel than male student-athletes , including by not having access to the same charter bus services
  • They are provided with fewer coaches and support personnel than male student-athletes
  • They are provided with inferior locker rooms, practice facilities, and competitive facilities than male student-athletes
  • They are provided with inferior medical and training services than male-student-athletes
  • Women’s teams are provided less publicity and public recognition than men’s teams
  • Women’s teams are provided less formal recognition for achievements than men’s teams

The lawsuit provides statistics submitted by the university that shows the uneven salaries of head coaches between the men’s and women’s teams. In 2020, the average salary for a men’s team’s head coach was $81,200. The average salary for a women’s team’s head coach was $59,080.

According to the lawsuit, Martha Brennan, the former head coach of the women’s track and field and cross country teams, repeatedly informed UCO about the ways the university was depriving the teams of equal treatment and benefits.

The teams met with UCO Athletic Director Stan Wagnon and UCO Director of Compliance Sheridan Leake in February about the unequal treatment it was receiving. According to the lawsuit, Wagnon detailed how the teams were dropped by UCO in 2000 and only added back in 2010 because of Title IX when they “weren’t really wanted”.

Brennan was fired in June. Days later, Wagnon held a Zoom meeting with the teams in which he allegedly said their head coach was terminated because students had voiced their concerns about the unequal treatment and opportunities. The student-athletes were also encouraged to transfer schools.

FOX23 reached out to UCO for comment and received the following response:

“The university has not yet been officially served with the lawsuit. The university policy is not to comment on pending/active litigation. We look forward to filing our response in accordance with court rules.”

You can read the full lawsuit below:

UCO Lawsuit by FOX23 on Scribd