Brenny suit comes to trial

The former Gophers women’s golf coach alleges she was discriminated against.

by Nate Gotlieb

Former University of Minnesota women’s golf coach Katie Brenny’s lawsuit against the University of Minnesota Board of Regents came to trial last week, nearly three years after she filed the suit.

Brenny sued the regents and former Director of Golf John Harris in January 2011, alleging that Harris kept her from coaching after discovering she was a lesbian.

Former University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg disputed the claims after the suit was filed. Rotenberg told the Daily in December 2010 he hoped to settle the case without litigation.

The trial started last Monday.

Harris offered Brenny the job of associate head coach in August 2010, according to the complaint. The job description listed by the University included the responsibility to “assist in selection, supervision and coaching of the team toward a positive experience and athletic excellence,” according to the complaint.

The complaint states that Harris found out about Brenny’s sexual orientation shortly after hiring her and then took away many of her coaching duties, including providing golf instruction to the women’s team.

“You have nothing to talk to these girls about,” he said, according to the complaint.

Brenny left the program in October 2010 after the University offered to transfer her to a sales position at TCF Bank Stadium, just days after then-athletics director Joel Maturi offered her a severance package, the complaint states.

She accepted the severance package later that week, according to the complaint. Brenny rescinded the agreement during the 15-day grace period allowed by the state of Minnesota. The University then indicated it wouldn’t renew her contract and would instead assign her to the sales position.

The suit hasn’t gone in Brenny’s favor thus far.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in May 2012 that she couldn’t sue Harris because his actions fell within his duties as a University employee.

A judge threw out Brenny’s claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation in December 2012, leaving only the sexual orientation claim.