A lawsuit was filed against the University of Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart by former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings, who alleges that she was forced to retire early because of her sex and age.

Jennings, who has worked at the school for 35 years and remains on staff as the head coach emeritus, said Hart and the other officials wanted the athletic department to be a “good ol’ boys” club” and replaced her with a younger man for that reason. The suit alleges that 12 of the 15 employees laid off as part of the school’s effort to consolidate the men’s and women’s athletic departments were female, while only three women fill the athletic department’s 23 executive staff and senior administrative staff level positions.

Hart’s individual behavior has also come under question, as the lawsuit alleges that Hart forced Pat Summitt, a former women’s basketball coach, to step down at the end of last season despite her protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that Hart spoke with Jennings at a May 15 meeting and gave her less than three hours to choose whether to resign, retire or be fired.

The atmosphere was of “intimidation and hostility” and employees who questioned the athletic officials’ ideas were “regarded as disloyal or divisive,” lawyer David Burkhalter wrote in the suit.


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