Former coach files lawsuit against university

Complaint contends discrimination during employment


Photo by Robert Berger

Former head coach of the cross country and track and field teams Kelly Parsley watches his team at a meet during his tenure at Point Park. Parsley was relieved of his employment at the university in February of this year and filed a lawsuit against Point Park last week. The complaint contends unlawful termination because of Parsley’s sex and sexual orientation.

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

A former head coach filed a discrimination lawsuit against Point Park University last week, according to court documents.

Kelly Parsley, former head coach of Point Park University’s cross country and track and field teams, filed the lawsuit against the university last Monday, according to the official complaint.

Point Park’s managing director of marketing and public relations, Lou Corsaro, released a statement on Sept. 9 on behalf of the university:

“We are aware of a lawsuit filed last week and are responding to it in the appropriate fashion. Given that this is a personnel matter and pending litigation, there will be no further comment.”

According to the lawsuit, Parsley, who currently resides in Kansas, “was wrongfully and unlawfully terminated because of his sex and sexual orientation” when he was relieved of his coaching position at Point Park on Feb. 15, 2019. The discrimination suit says Parsley is an openly homosexual male.

He served as the head coach of the track and field teams for five years and head coach of the cross country teams for four years prior to his termination.

The announcement of Parsley’s dismissal came after the coach received his ninth and tenth recognitions as River States Conference (RSC) Coach of the Year for the men’s and women’s indoor track and field season.

The lawsuit is currently before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The discrimination suit also alleges retaliation and allowing a hostile work environment, and it requests equitable relief and monetary damages for violations of Parsley’s civil rights. Point Park is identified as the defendant.

Parsley was hired by Point Park in 2014 to begin development of a men’s and women’s track and field program, and he began coaching the men’s and women’s cross country teams the following year.

The lawsuit states Parsley “was treated differently and held to a different standard than the other heterosexual male coaches at Point Park.” The document contends Parsley was not invited to department celebrations including holiday and birthday parties, and “heterosexual male coaches at Point Park routinely mocked Parsley for his coaching methods.”

The complaint asserts that Parsley “observed and was made aware of heterosexual male coaches harassing graduate students, inappropriate touching and making inappropriate comments to student athletes.”

Parsley brought the alleged conduct to the attention of the Human Resources Department and Athletic Department officials which resulted in no disciplinary action, according to the federal document.

The complaint further asserts Parsley was criticized for “yelling” at his team by former athletic director Dan Swalga and other university officials, yet other heterosexual coaches allegedly displayed similar conduct with their respective teams.

The discrimination suit says Swalga and successor John Ashaolu created a hostile work environment targeting Parsley.

Due to the alleged discrimination because of his sex and sexual orientation, Parsley filed an internal Title IX complaint in spring 2018, the suit said. At this time, Elizabeth Rosemeyer served as the university’s Title IX coordinator and conducted the investigation.

Swalga and Rosemeyer are no longer employed by Point Park.

The Athletic Department announced Swalga’s retirement on May 18, 2018, after 12 years of employment at Point Park, and Rosemeyer is now the Director of the Office of the Title IX Initiatives and Title IX Coordinator at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Title IX investigation concluded that “Parsley had been treated differently than other male coaches, but the investigators could not determine if the dissimilar treatment was because he was a homosexual male, as homosexual women allegedly did not experience similar harassment and discrimination,” the suit alleges. Parsley disagreed with the outcome.

The Globe reached out to former employee Rosemeyer, and she made no comment.

Following the Title IX investigation, Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Paylo and a freshman allegedly “orchestrated a scheme” against Parsley to end his career at the university, the former coach’s lawsuit said.

Parsley’s athletes were allegedly encouraged to create false complaints against Parsley, the lawsuit says, and the complaints did not go through the official complaint process as outlined in the university’s student handbook.

The Globe reached out to Parsley, but the former coach declined to comment.