The Tony Minnis Case At LSU Turns Ugly

Today it comes down that former women’s tennis coach Tony Minnis, who was let go over the summer after back-to-back-to-back sub-.500 seasons, has lawyered up and is now suing LSU for racial discrimination.

Former LSU women’s tennis coach Tony Minnis, who was fired earlier this year, has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the university.

Minnis, who is black, joined LSU in 1992 and compiled an overall record of 285-135 and a Southeastern Conference mark of 86-144 while leading the Lady Tigers to the NCAA tournament 15 times. LSU finished 11-13 this year, the third straight losing season for the team.

Minnis’ suit alleges he was subjected to “unwelcome race-based harassment and discrimination” throughout his employment at LSU.

The suit contends white coaches were paid up to $30,000 more than Minnis, and that he received “unjust evaluations and false letters of reprimand.”

Minnis repeatedly reported, protested and complained about the alleged illegal discrimination and harassment, to no avail, the suit adds.

The AP report misstated Minnis’ record, as his LSU bio said he was 285-234.

This whole thing is a shame. I’ve known Minnis for a long time and he’s a great guy. He also labored in obscurity to a large degree within the LSU athletic program, and I always wished he would have gotten more support. LSU needed an indoor tennis practice facility, and at one point there was a wealthy donor who wanted to put up a million dollars toward building one, but then-AD Joe Dean insisted that money go into the athletic department’s general fund rather than be earmarked for its intended purpose. And that was that.

Still, Minnis was at LSU for 21 years. He was 10-15, 11-13 and 11-13 his last three seasons. LSU was No. 70, No. 68 and unranked in the last three years. For a major athletic program to let a coach go whose last three years indicate a colossal falloff from prior performance isn’t indicative of racism or discrimination.

And while it’s unfortunate that Minnis didn’t get a bigger budget or better facilities while he was LSU’s women’s tennis coach, the remedy for that was to find himself a better job, or at least threaten to leave as leverage for more resources. He never did that – or, at least, he was never effective in doing it. And as such, he has no reason to complain about how he was treated – particularly not after his performance fell off the table and he got sent packing as a result.

Minnis hired the one lawyer in Baton Rouge who can be most reliably counted on to deliver discrimination lawsuits against LSU – Jill Craft. Seems like that and criminal defense are all she does.

She’ll have you know this is about truth, Jesus and the American way…

“Mr. Minnis steadfastly fought for equality in women’s athletics only to discover he also was being subjected to inequity,” his attorney, Jill Craft, said Tuesday. “He, by standing up for his rights, is continuing to stand for vindication of the rights of all.”

The thing is, LSU hired somebody with a substantially better pedigree than Minnis had when he was hired on in 1992. Minnis had been a star player at USL in the 1980’s, and after college he’d been a local club pro as well as having a stint as an assistant coach for the Ragin’ Cajuns. But the most recent hire, Julia Sell, was a star player at Florida and won a national title in 2003, then ended up as a coach at the US Tennis Association’s training center before a three-year stint as an assistant at Notre Dame which saw them become a top five program.

In other words, she’s a nationally prominent hire. Minnis wasn’t. And it has nothing to do with race. He wasn’t winning, so there was no reason why he would command a high salary or more resources.

Sell does. And surprise! – she’s getting paid more than Minnis made.

Suing LSU after the fact, and suing LSU for racial discrimination when they fired you from a job you held for 20 years in a competitive profession and were unsuccessful in  for three years, won’t cut it.

Craft takes all of these cases, because hey – why not? She gets free advertising with her name in the papers and maybe there’ll be some money from her contingency fee at the end of the day if LSU decides to cut a check to make her go away.

But this case has no merit. The idea that at a place like LSU they’re going to let you get by with 21 years, where you never win an SEC title and you’re never above No. 18 in your final ranking, and they finally let you go after you lose three straight years, and somehow you’ve got a racial discrimination beef? That’s crazy.

Tony’s a good guy, and he needs to move on with his life. He’s still relatively young and he’s still well-liked. This is a dead end for him and it will tarnish him to sue LSU for discrimination that didn’t happen. And suits like this actually set back the cause of black coaches, because every time one of them comes up for a job you get this “what happens if the hire doesn’t work out; are we going to have to not only pay a buyout but THEN get kicked with one of these crappy lawsuits on top of it?” stuff. And that could scare away potential employers.

It’ll probably scare away Minnis’ potential employers now that it’s in the papers.

As for Craft, we’ll just say nothing about this is a surprise.

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